Three score years and nine ago the welfare state was formed. A vision of Britain as Jerusalem for all, a beacon of hope in a country battered and bruised by the ravages of war. Principles so important that despite the crippling debt of the post war years, our grandfathers and grandmothers made sure their dream of a society caring for all was a priority.
Despite two world wars and countless people disabled in the pursuit of justice it took another 25 years for disabled people to begin our own long march to freedom..
And so we’ve come here today to dramatise a shameful condition. A condition which means that our people, our loved ones are still not free.
Because 7 decades later, not all disabled people are free. 7 decades later, the lives of those with learning disabilities are still crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. 7 decades later, those with learning disabilities live on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. 7 decades later, those with learning disabilities still languish in the corners of our society and find ourselves exiled in our own land.
We are often asked “when will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as our rights are under threat.
We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with fatigue cannot gain access to the transport, to the workplaces, to the leisure spaces of our cities. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are segregated, denied appropriate aids and parents broken by the lack of support.
We can never be satisfied as long as disabled people are victim of unspeakable horrors. We can never be satisfied as long as we remember Connor Sparrowhawk, left alone to drown in an NHS hospital.
We can never be satisfied as long as we remember Stephen Neary, ripped away from the life and family he loved because someone in power thought that they knew best. We can never be satisfied as long as we remember the torture in Winterbourne View, carried out by those paid to care, those who believed we are so worth so little that no-one would care what they did to us.
We can never be satisfied while people with learning disabilities lack the rights to live free.
We must embrace our diversity, our differences, our talent and work together until we can dream the dreams of all.
It may now be a nightmare, but we too can dream. To dream is a right for all humans and the first step on the road to justice. Without our dreams we have no hope, and we all have hope. Our rights, our dignity, our existence can all be threatened, but the flame of our hope cannot be extinguished. The hope of a world in which all humans are seen as people first, people, with fundamental rights; to eat, to drink, to live, to love, to be free, to dream. We can dream of a day when all children grow together, learn together, play together regardless of ability. We can dream of a day when those children become adults, accepting adults who see the world as equal, a world of ability not disability.
We can dream of a world of people with the right to have their basic needs met in whatever form they arise.
This marvellous new power which is rising in our disabled community must not lead us to a dismiss all those outside of our community, for many of our not yet disabled sisters and brothers have come to realise that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And slowly, but surely, they are coming to realise that their freedom is bound to our freedom.
We cannot travel this road alone.
And as we travel we shall make this pledge, a promise to travel together on a journey with our leaders at the fore. A journey led by those of us with disabilities, a journey supported by those paid to provide the framework upon which we build our lives. For freedom, when it comes, is about our choices; the choices of disabled people, the lives of disabled people, the voices of disabled people. Our choices. Our lives. Our voices. Made with our families, our carers, our supporters. But always, always, always at heart our choices, our lives, our voices, not those you may want to make or speak for us.