Gary Sheila cropped

First week of Learning Disability England

The Launch

On Tuesday 14th of June we launched Learning Disability England (LDE) at the House of Lords with about 150 people crammed in a marquee on the River Thames. There were so many people there it was hard to speak to everyone individually.

Baroness Sheila Hollins made a good speech and introduced me.

I started by cracking a few jokes at the beginning to relax myself and also everyone in the audience. I welcomed everyone and gave my speech.

In my speech I said:

“We have a good team of people to make this happen

We are in this together and also stronger together

For far too long we have been working separately and our voices have not been strong enough on our own to make change

To make change we need to work with others.”

It was great to finally launch Learning Disability England after working on it for so long. I was very excited, overwhelmed, I was going through all the emotions; I was on a high and tired. It was a relief that all that hard work was worthwhile and I had a lot of support from loads of lovely people.

You can see photos from the launch event here.

Gary and Chris Hatton
Gary with academic Chris Hatton.

On Wednesday we got on with our regular day to day work, visiting Kendal in Cumbria to have a meeting on projects we are developing. We met with an academic from the LDE Academic Network to talk about doing some research.

The same day, an article I wrote got released in the Guardian newspaper which was all about people how have learning disabilities having a say in the services they use. You can read my article here.

Gary reading Guardian
Gary reading his article in the Guardian.
BBC Breakfast
Gary at BBC Breakfast
Gary at the BBC.

On Saturday I went to Salford ‘Media city’ and stayed overnight to then get up early to get interviewed on BBC Breakfast at 6:50am. The interview lasted 5 minutes but it felt like 1 minute, it was just so quick. They asked me questions about Learning Disability England and said they would like me to come back in the future.

You can watch my interview here.

It was important for me as a person with learning disabilities to be speaking on television and not a non-disabled person speaking on my behalf.

It was important that is was a person with a learning disability telling viewers about LDE, hate crime, harassment and ATU’s.

It is important to talk about these things so we as LDE can campaign for change.

I have done television interviews before and in the future I want there to be more self-advocates speaking up with me.

LDE will help our members to represent us in front of the media – it does not have to be me alone. We are all in this together.

LDE will help train both people with learning disabilities and families in media separately so they can learn at their own speed. They will interview each other, use a camera, and do some recording. Then go and interview other people with disabilities, general public, politicians etc.

LDE will support new members to join this and hopefully to be interviewed on television. LDE will be in contact with all the TV stations, radio, newspapers and magazines.  We will have our own newspaper for members and we want to have our own YouTube channel.

What does the launch of LDE mean for the future?

LDE means better help, support and advice for People with learning disabilities, parents, families, friends, carers and organisations who support people with learning disabilities.

We will campaign for Human Rights, civil rights, an Inclusive society, independence, the closure of ATU’s.

We will do Marches, petitions, develop our own policies, we will do Direct Action and sit down protest if need be.

Hopefully by doing the above we will get the General Public on our side and so the politicians as well. Nothing about us without us.

Why is LDE different?

It’s new, it’s fresh. We have people with learning disabilities, families, carers, friends and organisations that support people with learning disabilities coming and work together as one. We are stronger together. United we stand and divided we fall.

By Gary Bourlet.