“We must move forward, but never, never forget those who got us here in the first place”

Blog by Gary Bourlet on remembering people with a learning disability who we have lost.

Last night I started thinking about my journey in self advocacy. And all the amazing people I have met along the way who have walked that road too.

Back in the 1960s when I was a boy, it was hard to find role models. But by the winter of 1982 when I started my self-advocacy journey there were many people who inspired me as self-advocacy had started to take off.

One of these people was Mabel Cooper who was a very strong self-advocate who had spent much of her life in a big institution. She campaigned to get people with learning disabilities out of these institutions. Unfortunately, she is no longer with us.

Learning Disability England have been talking with some members about how important it is to remember people like Mabel. To celebrate what they have achieved and what they stood for.

But also, to remember those who have tragically lost their lives when the system failed them.

Unnecessary death has unfortunately been going on for centuries for people with Learning Disabilities. Especially in big long stay hospitals, institutions and old warehouses. We must not forget the victims of this treatment.

People with learning disabilities who have played an important role in the early stages of self-advocacy and changing the futures of other learning-disabled people are also simply getting old and passing away.

LDE wants to set aside a memorial page to remember all these people with learning disabilities. We are looking for their stories. We don’t want these people to be forgotten and we want to show that they have achieved amazing things during their life.

We must also remember the many people whose tragic deaths have led to changes in the system, they have not died in vain.

We also want this memorial page to link to the Surviving through stories project and the people being remembered there who died during the pandemic. You can find that project here: https://www.survivingthroughstory.com/celebrate-a-life

We want it to be like an online museum of stories, photos, drawings, paintings, music and films that tell you about their lives.

We especially want our young people with learning disabilities to learn about the history of people with learning disabilities and how far we’ve come because of them.

This generation can then take the self-advocacy movement into the future and work together with our allies. We must move forward, but never, never forget those who got us here in the first place.

Please send any stories that you would like included on the memorial page along with pictures, films or music to: