Posted by Carl Shaw at 27/01/2015 10:56:29
In the 2010 General Election only 30% of people with a learning disability or autism voted.
In my experience the reason for this is the language that politicians use. When it’s coming up to general elections I’m always getting leaflets and flyers through my door but they use such technical language that I can’t understand half of what they say. They don’t send out any accessible information and there are no videos or pictures. Luckily, I can go to other people. I ask my parents and friends who understand what politicians are saying to explain it. It’s good that I can do that but not everyone has someone to ask.
When I can’t understand what politicians say it’s really frustrating. It makes me tempted to disengage and ignore what is happening in the political world. I want to blame them, but I do understand that making things accessible is difficult. To take everything that someone’s said and turn it into language that everyone can understand takes a lot of time and I know it’s just one more thing to do and that we’re all busy.
But what we need is for politicians to start focussing on what people with learning disabilities or autism want. They need to use accessible language and speak about things that are important to us. You see politicians on the TV all the time but they very rarely talk about disabilities, they only seem to mention the Paralympics.
I’ve always voted. My parents always encouraged me to. They said people had died to protect our right to vote and we need to remember how lucky we are. A friend of mine grew up in South Africa and she wasn’t allowed to vote when she was younger. I know people like Russell Brand say voting is a waste of time, that we should all be out protesting and that direct action is the only way to change anything. I’m tempted to say that’s a terrible idea, but part of his argument is right.
Yes, campaigning is a good idea but we can also vote and show politicians what we think on Election Day. If we want politicians to focus on the issues that matter to us then we need to show them that they need our vote. February 5th this year is National Voter Registration Day I will be encouraging everyone I know to register. Please do the same.
Carl Shaw is a Quality Auditor for Dimensions, he has a mild learning disability and has worked for us for eight years.
In case you don’t already know, the National Family Forum was established to give families a voice regarding how Dimensions support their family members. It was set up with the aim of helping Dimensions understand our views and create a forum through which Dimensions and families could keep in step with each other.
I joined the Forum for two reasons. First, I attended a regional forum in the West Midlands earlier this year to meet with senior management from Dimensions to discuss the support offered by them. I was encouraged that Dimensions takes time to listen to us. Whilst it was a useful meeting, I was surprised that only three families were represented. I was struck by how difficult it is for Dimensions to understand the needs of families if we don’t engage with them.
The second reason was I received an email asking for volunteers to join the National Family Forum. Never being someone who is backward in coming forward, I decided to apply to join; I attended my first meeting in early November.
I was not sure what to expect, as I understood the aim of this meeting was to develop our next PATH. PATH stands for Planning Alternative Tomorrow with Hope. There were 10 of us made up of family members and representatives of Dimensions, plus two ladies from Imagine Act and Succeed who facilitated the session. Taking on various roles as fairy godmothers, time travelers and so on, we were asked to “dream big” about where we would like to see the National Family Forum and Dimensions in five years time. Having created the vision we worked back and looked at what would need to happen at certain times to make the vision a reality.
The result was a huge, colourful image that captured our views expressed in words and pictures. This will now be refined and brought to life in the months to come.
So what were my first impressions? The wide range of views and experiences of the group struck me, as did how much everyone cared. I was also impressed by how open Dimensions were to hearing our views and understanding what we wanted from them and the Forum. Ultimately, our aim is for the Forum to become redundant over time. We also decided to change the name of the Forum to the National Family and Friends Forum to recognise that it is not just families that are involved with those supported by Dimensions.
The Forum meets four times a year and I am looking forward to the next meeting.
If you would like to know more about the Forum or would like to get involved at a Regional or National level then please get in touch with Susan Kirkman, Chair on firstname.lastname@example.org, or Jackie Fletcher, Executive Director on Jackie.email@example.com. Our views matter and we can help shape the service Dimensions offers to our friends and family members, but only if we get involved.
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