For as long as I can remember, my family have always pushed ‘inclusion’. I’ve never really had to think what the word means, all means all and that’s that. But, I guess coming from a mother who is a lecturer of learning disability nursing and a father who’s a psychotherapist I would always have this view point.
Last year I accepted a place to study Drama, Applied Theatre and Education at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama – in London (a big move for a girl from the countryside). Studying at a drama school in London was definitely a dream of mine and everything about my capital city had always excited me, similarly to a lot of people all around the world.
London is famous for landmarks such as Big Ben and the London Eye, but I think what makes London stand out are it’s big red busses and its underground maze of tubes. It’s a beautiful part of our capital’s history, but it’s also a tricky one too. I’d never really considered how difficult London’s transport system is, well beyond the point of the endless delays, crowded carriages and ever-growing fares. London has opened my eyes to different ways of thinking in many ways, but the thoughts behind this cities transport sets it back 50 years. The Capital City is England’s most diverse city, adding to it’s beauty and history, but diversity moves beyond race. London is home to approximately 1.4 million people with a disability, yet statistically 47% percent of people with a learning disability in London in particular have experienced physical or verbal abuse on public transport. It begs the question, how can people in the most diverse city in England in 2015 be so cruel to other human beings.
Whilst unfortunately the hate crimes are not unique to London, the lack of equality to accessing public transport is, and from this perspective “Going Places” has found it’s feet. I’m coming up to my 3rd term of my 2nd year, the highly anticipated term called Collaborative Outreach. The term gives students the opportunity to work in groups of 5/6 to create theatre companies and sets them loose in various community settings (some groups get the opportunity travel all around the world) some people say they only choose the course for this term as it presents you with so many opportunities. But, my group, in my opinion, have the BEST project ahead of us!
We are called ArtBox Productions, we are made up of 6 students and 8 actor and musicians, who happen to have learning disabilities. We are working with Mencap, an English charity that pride themselves on working in partnership with people with learning disabilities to provide services to support people to live the life they want too and this is something we have put at the forefront of our project and our method of work.
This has taken a lot of communication between us and our cast and we have all decided that we wanted to do a show, a show that means something, that represents these adults as ADULTS, not babied or pitied because they have a disability, celebrating the diversity and the ABILITY of our cast and talking about issues that need to be talked about.
And what needs talking about? Accessibility. Accessibility in all sense of the word, but we can only do a 90 minute show, so we are focussing on accessibility on London Transport. There are 270 tube stations that take you to every nook and cranny of London, but did you know that if you use a wheelchair you cannot access 225 of them, 225 famous parts of a city that suddenly become an unrealistic part of your commute because you happen to be one of the 750,000 people in the UK that use a wheelchair. That’s 750,000 that can’t see all of THEIR capital city. But, our show is not there to condemn our public transport system, it’s here to celebrate the changes already made and to perhaps suggest some options to be thought through. For example, not only more step-free access, but things like easy read tube maps and information around the stations and on the buses.
We have recently found out our project will not be supported in funding from our school as we are staying in London. We really would love to gain support to enable talented ambassadors for people with learning disabilities to have their voices heard on a public platform. After all you can’t be empowered and have a voice some of the time, you have to be empowered and have a voice all of the time. But if the transport isn’t there, how will people hear your voice?
Please find more information on our fundraising website
Written by Annie Laverty, April 2015