The Impact of Advocacy

Gary Bourlet, Membership and Engagment Lead for Learning Disability England introduces a new film

Learning Disability England and Speakup Advocacy have been putting together a film called ‘Impact of Advocacy’.

It looks at the changes that have happened since people with a learning disability have felt empowered to speak up for themselves.

It looks into the important history of the self-advocacy movement and speaks to many inspirational people with a learning disability about their stories.

Last week we launched the film as part of Advocacy Awareness Week.

As a figure in the Self-Advocacy movement for over 37 and half years and a co-founder of People First in the UK, I have personally seen the impact it has made over the years.

As the film shows, it was incredibly tough in those early years.

It was very difficult for people with a learning disability to speak up for themselves, for their rights and the injustice that was happening.

All the power to make change was in the hands of provider organisations and families.  

Things began by small groups of people with learning disabilities coming together, sometimes hidden away in attics out of fear of speaking out!

They would speak about the issues they were having in their day centres.

I was part of many of these meetings.

People were angry and upset about how they were being run and how they were being treated.

These meetings gave people a chance to talk about their lives and plan for action to make them better.

It then moved on from just speaking about their experiences in day centres and onto what was happening to them in society.

It was a battle in the 80’s to get things going, even the charities commission said we could not run our own charity.

But we have fought for change for a long time and we have fought for freedom and dignity.

Self-Advocacy groups are not just social clubs now as they once were and go beyond even charities now.

Together they have formed a whole civil and human rights movement.

Don’t get me wrong, self-advocacy is fun and brings joy and mutual support to people’s lives but it is also busy.

Self-advocates make a difference and get things done.

That is why I always advocate for people with a learning disability being paid a decent wage for their time and energy.

This film recognises what self-advocates have achieved through determination to create better lives for themselves and other people with a learning disability.

The people in the film are, like me, very passionate and believe in inequality and justice.

They believe in the worth of all people, regardless of disability or ability.

I am sure that another 30 years into the future, we will be able to look back again at the impact self-advocates have gone on to have on the world and be blown away.

I hope we will also be seeing many more people with a learning disability living Good Lives.

Please watch and share the film below…