Back to The Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List 2018

Francesca Dunn and Samir El-Ziftawy

Category: The 2019 Michael Ludlam Award for Advocacy, policy and the media

Samir and Francesca work together as a team…they come as a duo and support each other.

Changing Places (and attitudes)

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People with severe disabilities cannot use regular accessible toilets and need somewhere to be changed when they go to the toilet. Without a public place to change, people with severe disabilities simply cannot stay out for long. Samir and Francesca feel this is really unfair.

Just friends talking to each other

Having profound and multiple learning disabilities, Samir and Francesca cannot use words to communicate. But they communicate in other ways. For example, Francesca blinks once to say ‘yes’ and stares to say ‘no’. Samir shows that he agrees by smiling widely and making a ‘happy ’sound.

Both have a great sense of humour and laugh at funny jokes. They talk to each other and people around them through eye contact and facial expressions. Samir is the centre of attention with his radiant personality, and Francesca knows exactly what she wants and she gets it.

“Samir and Francesca work together as a team… they come as a duo and support each other… I am extremely proud of their achievements over this past year…” Katie Reid, Healthcare Facilitator for Achieve together.

Campaigning for change

Samir and Francesca are involved in a campaign they feel passionate about called “Changing Places”, which calls for community spaces (such as shopping centres, cinemas, restaurants, parks etc. ) to have Changing Places toilets to make going out and staying out possible for people who have severe disabilities.

Through self-advocacy group “Campaign 4 Change” Samir and Francesca were supported to speak to several large shopping centres in Brighton about Changing Places toilets. Both have also been involved in the group’s presentations – Samir uses a specially designed button to change slides.

Samir joined Campaign 4 Change at Pride…
…and Francesca wasn’t far behind.

They also raise awareness of their campaign by meeting people in the community on Changing Places Awareness Day, sporting their ‘Changing Places’ T-shirts and signs, and through photoshoots (they were able to follow the photographer’s directions brilliantly!)

Being an inspiration

Samir and Francesca’s achievements prove that people with profound and multiple learning disabilities can make their own choices, be involved and be dedicated to a cause.

They are an inspiration, and an example to other people that having very severe disabilities does not stop one making a real difference and having a meaningful life and goals.


How does it feel to be a Learning Disability and Autism Leader?

Samir and Frankie communicate using body language and sounds. When I told them that they have been named Leaders, both smiled widely/ laughed, whilst making an ‘excited’ sound.


“The story highlights the fault lines to live an ordinary life we, as disabled people, have to go through. It leaves me with hope that Samir and Francesca, and others raising such issues, will close the fault lines to live an ordinary life. So thank you both for doing your bit to shine a light and connect how this impacts on the wider community and society. Thank you!” – Leaders’ List 2019 Judge

“They showed they can be inspirational and ambitious and showed they are disability activists through and through.” – Leaders’ List 2019 Judge

“Samir and Francesca sound like two people with a lot to say. It was great to read about how they are using their experiences and skills to make things better for others. They also sound like they would be great for a night out! I wish them both continued success in all they do.” – Leaders’ List 2019 Judge

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