Please treat me equally

My name is Joanne and I am almost 17. I live at home with my family
but once a week and some weekends I go to a children’s respite care
home. It gives my mum a break and I enjoy going out with the staff.
I go to a special needs school. Last year I joined People First in
making a video about our experiences of being bullied. Now I work
at People First one day a week as part of my school work placement.
At People First, I answer the phones and go to important meetings
like our partnership board meeting.

I am going to tell you about some of my experiences being a young
person with learning difficulties, who uses a wheelchair, and what
I would like in my life. Some things about me are just like any
other young adult. I like to watch my soaps – especially
Emmerdale, help my mum at home, and read my magazines
after school. Sometimes I fight with my brother. Other things are
different. For example the friends of my brother, who is a
non-disabled young adult, can ring the house and come to visit him.
It is harder for my friends to come around the house because they
all have different needs – like special foods. So, mostly we talk
on the phone. Young people with learning difficulties should get
more support to hang out with each other.

My school is different from that for kids who aren’t disabled. For
example, at a regular school the kids take GCSEs. They get advice
on what to do after they finish school – like what college to apply
to. At my school we don’t have exams, and we only have the chance
to go to a “special” college programme for people with learning
difficulties. I don’t know if I am going to college – I am not sure
– I wish I knew.

Another thing that is hard is that I don’t know what I want to do
when I finish school. No one seems to be helping me. I know I want
to keep living with my parents. If I lived on my own I wouldn’t
know who could help me out. I know some of my friends at People
First use direct payments and have their own homes. But no one at
school has told me about this. They did teach me something about
cooking. I do cooking at home too. My parents encourage me to get
out on my own.

I have some ideas about how the government can make the lives of
young people like myself, better. They should help us plan our
lives when we get ready to leave school. They should encourage us
more and listen to our worries. They should teach us about sex,
relationships, having babies, and all that. People must think if
they don’t tell us about sex and kids we’ll stay innocent forever!
I also think the government needs to make transport better for
disabled people so we don’t have to depend on our parents all the

As you can see some parts of my life are different to that for
young people who aren’t disabled. I don’t mind being disabled – I
am proud of who I am! What I do mind is when I don’t get the same
rights as everybody else.

Joanne Bowering is a member of Milton Keynes People

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