Capital ‘D’ for disability

I got an email before Christmas from an Assistant Manager at The WESC foundation (a specialist school in Exeter for young people with visual impairments). She wanted to meet us Pelicans to see if we could offer anything that her residents may be interested in. Her name was Shelley Matthews. Seeing that name and being such a melt, I got a lump in my throat. I hadn’t seen nor heard from her in years. The first time we met was soon after I’d left university, full of grand ideas about all the money and power that was coming my way. The reality was a deep, messy rut; depressed and on the doll I took to my weekly job centre meetings and eventually stumbled in to an entry level care job. I remember begrudgingly dragging my sorry a** up to Exmouth on my first day. Shelley was one of the team who awaited me. She was amongst those, humbly going about their daily grind, who taught me the principles of Care that I still rely on today. I had no idea on that day that it would be  my first real connection to a community that would give a purpose and a joy that I’m yet to find anywhere else.

I met with Shelley at WESC last Monday and we sat around a table with various people from the foundation. It was one of those let’s-share-the-love kind of meetings that can make a Monday a fun-day. Connections were flying about all over the place. There was an OT whose partner is a colleague of mine at Exeter College, teaching on the awesome Paths 2 provision. She also knew a lady at Arts Council England who might well be seeing our bid in the coming weeks. There was a team leader who ended up coming along to FreeFall+ on Wednesday. He already knew one of our existing core members and his daughter was taught by a textiles pro who is going to work with Pelican in an upcoming project.

Connections have come out nice and loud this week and we are so pleased to have sparked one with WESC. Thank you Shelley for the invite. 

Capital ‘D’ for Deaf

One of the principles on which we started Pelican was that we wanted to offer young people, carers and family members the chance to have an identity that wasn’t bound by disability.

Last term a colleague of mine at Exeter College delivered some ‘Deaf Awareness’ training that made me realise that my mind was open to think differently about this. He described the pride within the deaf community and how Deaf people will refer to Deafness, being Deaf and the Deaf community with a capital ‘D’ for Deaf. A proud capital ‘D’ for Deaf that signifies a distinct community. It provoked some reflection on my part.

When you see the connections and the action that the disability community provoke, it’s difficult to justify why you would want or indeed need an identity that didn’t have a proud capital ‘D’ for Disability at its heart. The connections I’ve briefly described that came to light in that  hour long meeting just scratch the surface of a network of people, not ‘bound’ by a Disability identity, but energised by it.

The question is not how we ensure our core members are accepted and included in the wider community, but rather how we can extend an invite to everyone else out there to this one.

Ideologically and ethically I don’t know which school of thought is the right one. I’m certainly not best placed to say. Disability has had a pretty huge ‘D’ for me since first meeting Shelley. And with the start of the new year’s sessions last week and the ideas and actions that have already been provoked, the Pelicans are putting their own capital ‘D’ in to proceedings. This is when I’m glad we have a mission question, rather than a statement. The question I’m thinking about this week is not how we ensure our core members are accepted and included in the wider community, but rather how we can extend an invite to everyone else out there to this one.

Until next time,


1 thought on “Capital ‘D’ for disability”

  1. Thanks for writing all these engaging stories in your blog – it is a real insight into another world. You share your thoughts honestly and eloquently and it’s refreshingly genuine. Best wishes for all that’s coming and I look forward to reading more soon.


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