I don’t know about you, but I think there’s something illogical about the saying, ‘before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes’. And no, I don’t think that because I can’t actually walk; it just goes against human nature. Sure, we shouldn’t be judgemental of anyone, but to judge someone is also to form an opinion of them and what they stand for, so as long as these judgements are informed, then what’s the problem? Although, the real question is, how do we educate people so that their views aren’t based on thin air?
If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you’ll understand my trepidation when I was invited to join the Lincolnshire Young Voices group. Despite my passion for altering the way disabled people are perceived in society, past experiences have led me to believe that my views don’t fit into the status quo. Realistically though, the worst thing that could’ve happened is that the group didn’t agree with my take on things, and then asked me to leave. The best; that they valued my views, meaning I could truly make a difference.
What struck me when I first entered the room, which was filled with people who’d been meeting since March 2017, was their willingness to accept me into the group. I had joined at a pivotal time for them as they were two weeks away from their Lincolnshire Young Voices launch event with the aim of recruiting more volunteers. But what’s the purpose behind the group?
Well, in 2015, a report emerged which stated that people with disabilities and additional needs should work with local authorities to improve services. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be baffled as to why the report had to be compiled to begin with. Isn’t it obvious that the people who are affected by things like healthcare, education and social care, should be asked what works and what doesn’t? As a result, the revelation came that Lincolnshire didn’t have a Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) group to help the authorities improve. Thus, Lincolnshire Young Voices (LYV) was born.
Why was I so cynical, I hear you ask? My dealings with the (for want of a better term) ‘disabled groups’ I’ve been involved with haven’t been great. In general, they’ve always left me feeling defeated. At the core of all of them, the desire to implement positive change has been hidden under thousands of wordy, professional policies and procedures which are incomprehensible to the average Joe. They’ve all claimed to be working alongside the young disabled people, yet when it came down to it none of the participants seemed to know what they were doing there.
It was clear from the onset that LYV had the potential to break the mould. For starters, its members seemed to genuinely get on and they were excited to be leading their own group. I initially had trouble grasping what it was they were trying to achieve. As I said though, I was the new girl, the launch was imminent, and everyone was buzzing for the opportunity to tell the people of Lincolnshire what their group was about. We spent a lot of time discussing the finishing touches; such as the balloons which would be the centre-pieces for the tables, and which pub we would frequent when the Big Day was done and dusted.
On 2nd March, any doubts I had about Lincolnshire Young Voices, and whether their intentions would materialise, were quashed. Over 50 aspiring volunteers with a variety of disabilities, alongside influential bodies from all sectors within Lincolnshire turned up to the launch at the Show Room to hear what we had to say.
Amidst the fun, frolics and renditions of Baby Shark, there was a serious message. We, as a group of disabled people, weren’t simply out to tell people about our disabilities, and therefore, what we expect from society. We individually and collectively strive to inspire change. It is on this foundation that we can contribute to and improve Lincolnshire’s services. To bring this back to my original point, we hope that our experiences will serve to educate others and encourage them to voice their own opinions.
“Together, our voices make a difference to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities”.
Photo credit: Lincolnshire Young Voices