People living with a learning disability have continued to be marginalised or left behind in our society. Now, one book, enriched with the voices of eight people with a range of learning disabilities is set to break down barriers. The message is one of success.
“You never hear the words ‘learning disability’ and ‘success’ in the same sentence,” explains Saba Salman the editor of Made Possible.
Inspired and influenced by the experiences of Saba’s sister, Raana – who has a learning disability – Made Possible is a book that is sure to change perceptions and, hopefully, attitudes towards the learning disabled community and their achievements.
Throughout, Made Possible celebrates the stories of success by people with learning disabilities.
One of the most poignant aspects of Made Possible is the fact the book is a platform for people to share their achievements and accolades in their own voice.
Across the UK there is an estimated 1.5 million people living with a learning disability. Made Possible features stories of success from eight people from a range of areas and is a touching and joyful read.
“Every person with a learning disability has a different story and they need to told in a positive way,” enthuses award winning singer-songwriter Lizzie Emeh about her participation in Made Possible.
“We need to share our achievements because it’s all about education.
“People can be ignorant about people with learning disabilities and what we can achieve, but the more we can educate and the more they are aware of us, the better it will be – it will help break down the barriers between us.”
Breaking down barriers is a key message in Made Possible, and the reason campaigner Shaun Webster was interested in sharing his story of success.
Shaun says: “We’ve got lives like anyone else. We may have learning disabilities, but that doesn’t make us any less human than anyone else.”
From speaking about her participation in the music industry, making music, being part of Heart n Soul – who produce Lizzie’s music – and performing at the Paralympic Games opening ceremony with Beverley Knight, to meeting Nelson Mandela and getting married, Lizzie’s achievements are thrilling and awe-inspiring.
Shaun celebrates his independence, his family, the joy of having children, grandchildren and his wife. The power of being in employment and the snowball effect of positivity in your professional and personal life that comes from being in work, Shaun’s success is evident and the joy it brings him is palpable.
For Saba, editing the stories has been an enriching process, too. “I’ve never been prouder of anything I’ve worked on,” Saba emphasises.
“Working with the eight essayists to produce their chapters and see the powerful messages coming through was incredible. It was humbling, rewarding and really enjoyable.”
And Made Possible has also seen personal success, and an emotional journey, for both Saba and sister Raana.
Looking back at Raana’s successes in school and college, her achievement of receiving a gold award for ‘setting such a positive example to other students’, Saba was able to see the determination Raana has brought to all aspects of her life.
Saba continues: “I just felt incredibly proud, it reminded me of how determined Raana is – and what an arduous battle families face in getting decent support.
“My family and I know how much Raana’s achieved and worked for to live a more independent life and to pursue things she’s interested in, so to be able to share that with a wider audience is amazing.”
Alongside Raana, Shaun and Lizzie, Made Possible features stories of success from a critically acclaimed actor, civil rights activist, Paralympian ad elite swimmer, an award-winning filmmaker and drag artist, to an elected UK mayor.
Together, they all live with a learning disability. Together, in their own words, they highlight that anything can be made possible.
Learning disability should no longer be a reason for people to be left behind. The world around us is changing and equality should be at the forefront of this change.
“A lot of people without learning disabilities think we can’t do anything for ourselves, that we’re reliant on our support worker or parents,” says Shaun.
“I want people to read Made Possible and think ‘If he’s done it, we can do it’.”
Lizzie passionately agrees: “I hope people read my story and realise that anything is possible if you really want it… If you have a story that needs to be told, just go out there and do it.”
It has never been more important to hear stories of success from the disabled community. Disability is not a barrier, attitudes and limited education is a barrier, Made Possible is set to make a powerful step in breaking down stigmas surrounding learning disability.
“I hope that people (with or without disabilities) will rethink how they define success and realise that they’ve achieved great things,” adds Saba.
“I also think that people with learning disabilities are achieving amazing things all the time, but it’s just that society doesn’t acknowledge that so people don’t feel valued.
“As my sister Raana says in Made Possible about one of her own achievements, doing her own shopping, ‘Is anybody noticing?’”
It’s time to take notice with Made Possible, because, anything is possible when you put your mind to it.
Made Possible is available for purchase here.