It's a strange thing, I think, that the voice of people living with disabilities is so rarely heard loudly and clearly, and without judgement. It is even more rare, that so many people who do not consider themselves to have a disability, are so unaware of the thoughts and feelings that come with living with one. With this in mind, I recently taught a class in which the learners I work with were overtaken with the struggles of being what they are; young people who are considered to have a disability, that I felt we needed to do something to empower ourselves. So we talked about it; and this talk was inspiring to say the least. The result was a series of extremely astute, honest, and uninhibited range of views that give a voice to something that needs to be heard; here are the Ten Things We Want You To Know About Disability:
1) I don't consider myself to have a disability. (Charlie.B, Learner, St John's College)
I think that MP's in The House of Commons don't understand people who have disabilities and what their lives are like. People don't seem to understand that having a disability is different to 'being disabled'; I am not my disability, I am just a person. I'm very aware that we are not seen as equal, and that's a difficult thing to know, especially because I've never done anything wrong, I'm just me. There should be greater equality in the world, MP's need to think differently and make positive changes.
2) It's not about being more or less able, it's just about differences. (Simon, Staff Member, St John's College)
The media and sometimes the general public can think of disabilities as 'us' and 'them', but if you ask me, everybody has some kind of disability. Some people's are physical, some are academic, some social, and some creative. One thing that has astounded me whilst working at the music department at St John's is how creatively uninhibited some of the learners are when writing lyrics and music; they take risks that I wouldn't dream of taking for the worry that it would sound silly. I have dyslexia, which has given me various academic challenges in the past, but I like to think that I have abilities that people without dyslexia do not.
3) I think people actively discriminate against disability. (Tyler, Learner, St John's College)
I know that I'm discriminated against as a young male with a disability, and it's all born out of ignorance. We can all try and raise awareness, but it won't necessarily change things; the government have just sent out a very clear message against people with a disability.
4) I find some simple things difficult, but that doesn't mean I'm not talented and capable.
(Alex. F, Learner, St John's College)
I'm an extremely talented artist, but I find simple things like online shopping really stressful. Things like that make me compare myself to others more than I should, I want to be able to say a whole sentence without stuttering, and read a whole sentence. But a lot of the prejudice is down to not being aware, it would also help to have some support, but I'm worried I won't get it once I leave this college.
5) Disability is massively misunderstood. (Iva, Staff Member, St John's College)
Few of us get the chance to experience such a rich and diverse scope of human expression. Working with young people with disabilities has enriched my life. It's one of the most creative environments where all people share a common goal; to learn, to be, and to have positive experiences, connecting, no matter the differences.
6) I keep my disability a secret. (Nathan, Learner, St John's College)
I don't tell people I have a disability because I'm too scared to tell anyone, as I was bullied before for it. I also don't really consider myself to have one. I do really wish my life was easier, the way I see people being treated with disabilities is ridiculous, so many people don't respect what others go through daily. It doesn't matter what the differences are, it's about being treated equally and with respect.
7) Don't be afraid to ask somebody if they have a disability, but do it without judging. (Anonymous, Learner, St john's College)
With me, people think I'm 'normal', and that I can do anything, I like that, because they're right; I can. I can read, speak, walk, work in a job, and I'm free with my mind. I might not learn in the same way, but I still learn.
8) Things are slowly improving. (Tim, Staff Member, St John's College)
I think that, since the Paralympics in 2012, disability has been portrayed in the media in a more positive way. There is still not equality, but in more recent years, things have improved. Awareness is better, but education on disability and people with disabilities should be more prominent, the media can and should play an important role in this. Everybody does things differently, there are things some people can do that other's can't; everyone is unique. I therefore think that everyone is disabled in some way, in the same way that everyone is able.
9) People think my brain is not good enough, but I am more than capable. (James, Learner, St John's College)
There are certain jobs I know I won't get because people don't think I can do it, but I can, I'm very capable. I want people in power in the government to stop just thinking about themselves, I want them to care about others.
10) Living with a disability is unfair. (Darryl, Learner, St John's College)
I have a disability (dyslexia and ADHD), and quite honestly it makes me feel like a I've screwed up. When I'm in college, I put on this face because I like to make people happy, and I don't want people to see how I'm feeling. My disability makes me feel a lot of emotions that people don't think about; I'm scared, I cry, I feel judged, I get nervous, and I think too much. I wish I could do simple things like talk to people in public, but I sometimes feel that people look at me like I'm different. I wish I was seen as equal. There are positives to having a disability though, I wouldn't be the person I am today; it's because of my mum and St John's that I am doing so well.
And there you have it; the views of some incredibly mature, open and aware young people on the subject of disability. If only these voices could be heard louder and more often; the change could happen faster.
Please note, these are the views of individuals within the college, and not representative of St John's College in an overall sense.