Learning Disabilities & Autism Opinion

Learning Disability Pride: Celebrating differences, recognising achievements

Gary Bourlet, Co-Founder, Learning Disability England

I have been leading on Learning Disability Pride for the past several years. I wanted people with a learning disability across the country to be proud of who they are and for the community to accept who they are. It is an opportunity to celebrate our differences and to really recognise what people with learning disabilities bring to society as I don’t think this is spoken about enough.

People with learning disabilities have been kept out of community life in the past. Not anymore. We are going to ordinary schools with our brothers and sisters, we live in our own homes, have jobs and do a lot for our communities. There is still a lot to be done to make life better for some of us, but I think we should celebrate what we have achieved. In my 36 years as a self-advocacy leader, I have heard so many powerful stories and experienced so much of what people with learning disabilities are capable of. The courageous and inspirational people I have met along the way were really the inspiration behind this.

I was also inspired by the LGBTQ+ pride month celebrations that have been happening since way back in 1999. Though they differ in that Learning Disability Pride is about being proud to have a learning disability, they are the same in that they both give people the chance to embrace who they are.

Until now I have been the one to put out a date for people in Britain to celebrate across one week of the year, but it doesn’t belong to me. It can be celebrated by individuals in so many different ways all across the country and I would like everyone to claim it as their own.

As I get older, I am admittedly finding it a lot leading on Learning Disability Pride on my own. I would love for a self-advocacy group to take the lead in organising it in the future, I will always be willing to help of course. It is something I am very passionate about. I think it would be great if it could be led by a group, so lots of voices can be represented.

My hopes for Learning Disability Pride are that it will eventually allow people to live better lives in the future. As I said earlier, we have come a long way but there is more to be done to make sure everyone with a learning disability can lead a good life.

This is the focus for Learning Disability England at the moment, the organisation I work for and co-found. Good Lives: Building Change Together is a document that begins to communicate clearly what people we have engaged with say they want and need to live well. To highlight the challenges that exist at the moment for people and to offer some hopeful examples of how we can overcome these. I encourage people to take a look at the document and be in contact with us if they want to be involved in this movement for change.

Be proud of who you are and celebrate in whatever way is meaningful for you.

To find ideas on how you can hold Learning Disability Pride celebrations, please take a look at the website. It would be great to see people with learning disabilities, their friends, families and supporters really getting creative. In the past people across the country have had marches, events (online and in person), walks, picnics and shared photos and stories on social media using the hashtag #LearningDisabilityPride.



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