My Voice, My Choice:
Empowering disabled people to have their voices heard. (Leonard Cheshire Disability workshop series, Swansea – May/June 2019)
Leonard Cheshire Disability is one of the UK’s most celebrated charities for the work it does to help people with a disability to live, learn and work independently in our communities (https://www.leonardcheshire.org/about-us). Therefore, we were over the moon in May 2019 when EfA was invited to present at a Leonard Cheshire workshop on “Fitness and Well-being” targeted at people with a disability in Swansea. We presented information on the physical and mental health benefits of exercise, our work improving inclusivity in Cardiff leisure centres, and emphasised the need for better solutions and support to enable people with a disability across Wales to access the exercise they need for a happier and healthier life. It was a brilliant event – with heartfelt conversations, open discussions and debate – the conclusion being that lots more needs to be done to improve inclusivity and access to exercise for the disabled in Swansea too. We met many strong people living active lives in spite of having a disability, whose views gave us new insights and encouragement to continue in our efforts to achieve equality. Hopefully, the friendships started and connections we made will lead to new and exciting ventures in the future.
We’re really lucky to have as our guest blogger Joshua Reeves who worked for Leonard Cheshire on organising the Swansea project and will provide us with an overview of the events:
My Voice, My Choice – Joshua Reeve’s overview for the Exercise for All blog
“Hello, my name is Joshua Reeves, I am 22 and despite having a disability (Cerebral Palsy) from birth I live a full and active life: I live independently, I work for Leonard Cheshire a pan-disability UK organisation and like nothing better than attending heavy metal gigs and taking part in cosplay events. Alongside working for Leonard Cheshire, I’m also a disability rights campaigner and the founder of the campaign “Don’t Call Me Special’ I love producing short videos on rights, awareness and speaking at schools to highlight issues that affect the disabled community.”
The aim of the “My Voice, my Choice” project was to empower disabled people within the Swansea area to have their voices heard on local issues that matter to them. We hoped that this would enable them to influence change and improve their local community, especially by breaking down societal barriers. Our goal was to allow disabled people to share their stories and raise issues about what they would like to see change in their community.
We held 3 My Voice, My Choice workshops, based on discussions about social inclusion, hate crime and fitness and well-being. We chose topics that we thought would lead to impactful, interactive workshops- and it turns out we were right!
Social inclusion workshop
We gave the participants the opportunity to discuss what they would like to see change or improve in their communities. This led to provoking, passionate discussions on transport, access to venues (“scores on the doors”) and considerate city planning (disruptive roadworks).
In the current uncertain political climate, hate crime against people with a disability felt like an increasingly urgent topic to discuss and was the topic at our second workshop. After eye-opening presentations from Victim Support, Dimensions and Dan Biddle we learned that “2,271 hate crimes were recorded as “Violence against the person” in the UK in 2017– this was more than any other single type of crime and up 17 per cent from the year before.” During this workshop we had some of the participants discussing their experiences of hate crime solely because of having a disability.
Fitness and well-being
Our third and final workshop was a fun, interactive day with the participants hearing about the importance of keeping physically active with a disability before having a chance to try out some ways to exercise in the community, from Boccia to specialised active-passive disabled exercise Motomed bikes. Trying out the Motomed bikes was an eye opener for at least one disabled member of the Swansea community, who enjoyed the leg exercise so much he has since asked the local LC2 leisure centre to install at least two systems, I’ll update on that campaign soon. Hopefully by raising awareness of how people with a disability could and should have a physically active lifestyle, we’ll have encouraged people with a disability in Swansea to exercise more by asking leisure centres, gyms to provide inclusive support and the right exercise equipment to enable this.
As the coordinator for the Leonard Cheshire “My Voice, My Choice” project, I’d like to thank everyone for supporting me to deliver these innovative events and for taking part – we couldn’t have done it without you.
Children in Wales
Bridgend Coalition of Disabled People
Exercise for all
Swansea Boccia Club
Your Voice Advocacy
and all of the Leonard Cheshire Cymru team. I really hope to have helped all who took part in these events to feel determined to act and encouraged to change their community for the better.
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