Russell’s Story

Russell likes to talk with people. It’s his favourite thing. He also likes meeting people, knowing what is happening next and having something to do. Working on VoiceAbility’s Speak Out Council (SOC) is perfect for him.

Russell Henke, speaking at the Speak Out CouncilRussell is 31 and has profound and multiple learning disabilities. He also has cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair and is a big Saracens fan.

He has been working with VoiceAbility in a variety of roles for about five years now and is extremely successful at challenging the assumptions of what people with high support needs are capable of and want to achieve.

As part of the SOC, Russell worked to improve a traffic crossing in Hitchin. He made a video and wrote a letter which he shared with a local councillor who visited him personally. The improvements Russell helped make benefitted both Russell and his community immensely.

Next Russell led a project to test local public houses for accessibility, both in terms of physical accessibility and the way in which they could provide an atmosphere where people with high support needs could feel comfortable.

He has led access walks, which has helped to highlight problems with footpaths across the county and has resulted in the County Council making several improvements to broken paving slabs and curbs.

He has even chaired a meeting of the Learning Disability Partnership Board.

James Sheard, who acted as Russell’s support worker for many years before coming to work for VoiceAbility as the Speak Out Council Co-ordinator said:

“I have seen a marked difference in Russell in the years since he started working with VoiceAbility. He has improved concentration and comprehension of his job role. He has increased confidence and takes huge pride in his work. One of his favourite says is “We’ve done that job”. What helps him is the structure of the job and the fact that we plan things out months in advance.”