Diane French is the Director of Operations and Business Development for Fitzroy Support – a National learning disability provider.

“I was delighted to be invited to contribute to Disability Talk. I’ve worked in Health and Social Care for a long time, and two years ago I took my first role working with people with a learning disability; moving from an organisation in mental health.

I’d worked in the mental health sector for some years and was pleased that political attention was finally starting to raise the profile of the needs of those with mental health problems. However, I’d become concerned about aspects of that debate. Much was being made of the fact that one in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point. It seemed to me, we were¬†close¬†to saying – ‘you should care about mental health because it might impact on you or someone you know one day’. Of course, Mental Health should have a bigger profile – it is a big issue – impacting lots of people who deserve better services. But there is a worrying implication that people are less likely to care about the issues that may not affect them personally, issues that effect people who are somehow perceived to be ‘different’.

I have always believed we should care about everyone in society regardless of their background, needs or abilities, because it is a mark of humanity. In celebrating differences, we learn from each other and are richer as a result. In a world of social media, profile certainly helps and like everyone else I’m delighted that events like the Para Olympics have a positive impact on disability awareness. I’m also pleased to see sites like Disability Talk discussing the everyday challenges. Over the last fifty years, we have made huge progress in ensuring the lives of people with learning difficulties are full of opportunities, yet, we still have a way to go. As John Williams, one of Fitzroy’s founders said, we all have a responsibility to our fellow human beings, otherwise we risk going back to a time when peoples with disabilities were ignored.

I am constantly challenged by those we support; finding delight in simple things, battling to find independence, being the subject of stigma and misunderstandings and struggling to be heard, and I welcome the contribution that Disability Talk is making by giving space to discussing the everyday challenges people face. Giving voice to those with disabilities and the issues that concern them is another step forward, and I look forward to making contributions from within the sector, and seeing the site grow”.

Diane French, Director of Business Development and Operations, Fitzroy.