North Yorkshire people with disabilities speak out to mark international celebration

This story was published 3 December 2021

North Yorkshire pays tribute today to disabled members of its communities and the enormous contribution they have made supporting each other and supporting others during the Covid pandemic.

Human rights day

Disabled people from across the county are also sharing messages for today’s International Day of People with Disabilities (Dec 3) which is highlighting the challenges, barriers and opportunities for disabled people in the context of a global pandemic.

The theme for this year is ‘Fighting for Rights in a post-Covid era’ and members of North Yorkshire Disability Forum, a local mental health service user group, and self-advocates from the North Yorkshire Learning Disability Partnership Board have been speaking up and posting messages and videos about the impact of the pandemic, the rights they are fighting for and the things that are important to them.

“The theme for this year’s International Day of People with Disabilities is an important time to reflect on the enormous challenges which disabled people have faced during the pandemic,” said Cllr Michael Harrison, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Adult Services and Health Integration.

“North Yorkshire County Council is pleased to support and work with a range of forums and groups that provide a collective voice for disabled people. Throughout the pandemic, disabled people’s leaders have worked incredibly hard to ensure that the experiences of disabled people are heard.

“They have also led work that has made a real difference to people’s lives in North Yorkshire, They have helped to ensure that people who live in care homes or supported housing could have safe visits from loved ones or take trips out with confidence; worked with us to get supplies of PPE and testing kits out to people where there were gaps; and made the case for parking permits and other support during lockdowns.”

Nick Moxon is the Chair of the North Yorkshire Disability Forum, and a member of the Care Home Visiting Task Group, which was set up last year to look at how care homes could provide Covid-secure visiting options and ways for care home residents to stay in touch with their loved ones. In his video, Nick discusses the impact that visiting restrictions had on him and how he has worked with the County Council to find a way forward.

Oliver is vice-chair of Harrogate District Disability Forum. In his video, Oliver speaks about being a keyworker and being someone classed as “vulnerable” during the pandemic and the effect that had on him.

Cllr Harrison said people with disabilities had also given invaluable feedback to the county council to help inform policy. He said: “Members from North Yorkshire Disability Forum and North Yorkshire Learning Disability Partnership Board have also provided important commentary to the County Council’s Care and Independence Overview and Scrutiny Committee and as part of a peer review of our response to the pandemic.”

Ricky Simpson is a member of Harrogate Mental Health Service User and Carer Involvement group. He has highlighted that it is important to include people with mental health conditions on International Day of People with Disabilities. Ricky said: ‘People need to know that mental health conditions can be disabilities. There needs to be more knowledge and awareness of this. You can see a broken leg but you can’t see a broken mind. There is still a lot of stigma about mental health and that stops people from talking about it.’ 

Self-advocates from Harrogate on North Yorkshire Learning Disability Partnership Board stated: “Disabled people should be able to enjoy life to the full and be supported to do so. Because people with disabilities are people like everyone else, we should be open and proud about our disability.

“We are entitled to live our lives to the full. We are entitled to choose our sexuality, relationships and have responsibility for our own lives and choices.

“It’s a privilege being a self-advocate and helping others. We work as a team and help each other. We are able to speak for ourselves and make our own choices.”

Self-advocates have created an activity to inform about human rights made with Inclusion North.

As part of the International Day of People with Disabilities celebrations Christopher Porter, who is a self-advocate Co-Chair of the Craven and Harrogate Learning Disability Local Area Group, has shared images from the ‘PhotoVoice’ project he is taking part in with an inclusive community group in Craven called Exclusively Inclusive. The group are working with Our Creative Connection on the project and there is an exhibition planned for January 2022 at The Hub at Skipton Town Hall.

The project uses photographs to focus on what is important for the community. Christopher is using his photographs to speak out against being labelled. Christopher said: “We are either labelled as ‘the vulnerable’ and seen as helpless or we are seen as inspirational! All we want is for barriers to be removed so that we can get on with our lives and have our contributions recognised.”