Back to The Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List 2018

Amber Okpa-Stother

Category: Sports, arts and entertainment

We need to celebrate difference…People with disabilities can be really good at doing lots of great things.

Breaking down barriers with art

Amber has worked on many projects and with many different people to make a difference.

Her experience spans across working with school children and as a personal assistant, supporting a young disabled person.

She has been seen to host workshops at conferences, deliver presentations and co-write an article with a prominent journalist.

Amber is also involved in a number of organisations to help make the arts more accessible for people with learning disabilities and autism.


How Amber’s inspirational journey stARTed

Amber Okpa-Stother is a spokeswoman and advocate for learning disabled people in the arts and education.

Amber’s nominee, Amanda Sutton, first got to know Amber when she joined an art class run by the arts charity where she works, Venture Arts, and where Amber went on to gain a Bronze Arts Award…

Amber Sports, arts and entertainment LDA Leaders' List 2018

“Shortly after she turned 18 she started to pass on her art skills to young people and worked on a series of ten-week projects with primary school children, teaching them brilliant art projects.

“She has a gift for communicating with people of all ages and backgrounds. From there she got a job in a local primary school where she has been working ever since. She also supports a young disabled person as their PA.

Leading the way

Now aged 23, Amber has a real sense of justice and fairness and is committed to enabling people with learning disabilities and/or autism to be better included in society.

In 2016, she delivered a workshop at the ‘Creative Minds’ conference at HOME in Manchester, which is about learning disabled artists gaining better representation and being seen within our culture.

Amber Sports, arts and entertainment LDA Leaders' List 2018

In the workshop she helped conference attendees to see and recognise the barriers that exist for disabled people in galleries, and the reception she gained was amazing.

“I feel really proud of myself winning this award and feel it’s a great achievement. It makes me want to do more and achieve more things.

“It also just shows that even if you have autism you can go on to achieve lots of great things and be a leader in anything. Like others without autism people shouldn’t presume they can’t do anything.”

Tackling Social Issues

The young woman has also undertaken volunteer work placements in Museums and galleries, as well as co-writing an article with Guardian writer Saba Salman in ‘The Social Issue’

“People were very welcoming and I think I am helping them to learn more about working with people with autism too, maybe like how people communicate or something.

“Even though I’ve got autism, I try to do things that people without autism think that people can’t do – like driving. I passed my driving test, which was a big achievement for me because I’ve always loved cars.


“I get upset sometimes if people don’t understand me, like my driving instructor who didn’t think I could pass my test. It’s important to listen so people can know what message people are trying to get across.

“People have really great skills and they should give people the chance. People with disabilities can be really good at doing lots of great things and have skills that other people without a disability might not have, which can be valuable in a workplace.

“For example, people can be more understanding of other people. It would make me happy to see people with disabilities working in museums and arts because it’s good to see people with great skills doing a good job.”

Venturing forward

Amber:

  • has joined Venture Arts as Public Engagement Assistant; to advocate for learning disabled people, be a spokesperson for Venture Arts and work with the public and audiences.
  • is chair of Venture’s learning disabled steering group, who give the organisation artistic direction.
  • is joining Axisweb, the national arts initiative, on their advisory panel.
  • is young associate at Curious Minds, the Arts Council bridge organisation for arts in education in the North-West.

The young activist is also now part of the Youth Forum for Manchester International Festival and has been working with local Ministers to further the rights and equality of learning disabled people, which led her to the Tory Party Conference in 2017.

While there, Amber met the then Minister of State for disabled people Penny Mordaunt and discussed the needs of disabled people regarding fair and equal opportunities in employment.

In addition to these achievements Amber has been working with another organisation, Leonard Cheshire. Amber is on the steering group for a programme called Can Do and her progress in advocating for disabled people has been exponential.

With a group from Can Do, she recently wrote to local MP Kate Green who has since invited her and the group down to the House of Commons.

Amber fully deserves to be recognised for her immense achievements so far and we believe she has a very bright career ahead of her.

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