I’m working on my first book, Made Possible: essays on success by high achieving people with learning disabilities
As a social affairs journalist, most of my work over the last 20 years has been influenced by the fact that I have a learning disabled sister. I know that her learning disability does not define her, but society inflexibly labels her in terms of her condition, instead of recognising her personality, skills and abilities.
Attitudes must change – that’s the reason for Made Possible, which I’m currently working on with the publisher Unbound. Unbound is a new way to connect authors and readers; an author presents a pitch (you can see mine here), supporters make a pledge, and when the goal’s reached, work on the book starts.
Have you ever heard a person with a learning disability talk about their talent, or share the secret of their success? No. That’s why Made Possible has to be published – and the fact that it hit its crowdfunding target in just six weeks shows that it’s very much needed.
There are 1.5m people with learning disabilities in the UK today but our society – media, politicians and the public – barely gives them lip service. If ever learning disabled people do get a mention, they are usually talked about as scroungers who are a burden on the state, or superhumans who have triumphed over adversity.
People with learning disabilities are pitied or patronised, but rarely heard from in their own words. While I try and highlight these kind of issues through my work in the Guardian, an article can only go so far.
This new book challenges current narratives and shatters the lazy stereotypes.
This book’s contributors have won national accolades in competitive fields such as film, theatre, television, music, fine art, campaigning and politics. How have they achieved this? Raw talent? Determination? Money? Luck? Family help?