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An action-packed Learning Disability Week 2024 at VoiceAbility

24 June 2024

Staff across VoiceAbility have been out in force for Learning Disability Week – embodying this year’s theme of Do you see me?’


Kicking things off on Monday 17 June, our Speak Out Cambridgeshire team spent 3 hours at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, promoting their work supporting people with a learning disability and autistic people to be heard.

Speak Out Leader Russell manning our Addenbrooke’s Hospital stall in Cambridge during Learning Disability Week.

Speak Out Leader Russell said: I spoke to people to help them understand me. I told people about what I need so that they can help people with disabilities.”


Continuing that theme on Tuesday, fellow Speak Out Leader Bill Jones spoke at a training session for NHS staff at Addenbrooke’s.

He said:

It’s important that staff know that they need to treat people with learning disabilities and autistic people differently to how they treat other people,

I hope they now have a better understanding and they know that hospital is a very stressful place for people like me, because of all the noise and everything.”

Speak Out Leader Bill Jones training staff at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

Learning Disability Specialist Nurse Cheryl Exley, who carried out the training alongside Bill, added: I think it is really important that experts by experience provide Cambridge University Hospitals staff with training of what personal experience can feel like. 

It can be more powerful and help deliver key improvement messages when it comes from experts.”


On Wednesday, Speak Out Newham attended a learning disability celebration barbecue organised by Newham Council.

The team spread the word about our Newham drop-in group for people with learning disabilities and autistic people. 


Pam Bebbington, who shared her story as part of our Use Your Power campaign.

Thursday morning saw Pam Bebbington from Oxfordshire share her story, as part of our ongoing Use Your Power campaign.

Pam said: Being in hospital made my mental health worse.

I want to make sure everyone’s got the right to have their own choices, their own places to live, their own support that they want, not the support that they’re given.

Later that day, Hampshire self-advocate Fahmina Hoque travelled to London with Speak Out Hampshire Facilitator Trish Moody for Learning Disability Network London’s Spotlight On event, all about what success can look like for people with learning disabilities.

Fahmina Hoque speaking with Learning Disability England Co-Founder Gary Bourlet and journalist Saba Salman at the Learning Disability Network London event.

Fahmina was one of the speakers on the night. She spoke about what self-advocacy means to her, saying:

Self-advocacy is speaking up for yourself and other people with learning disabilities.

It’s to get our voices heard around issues like GP services and social care, and getting people with influence to listen to us.”


The week was rounded off on Friday with Speak Out Essex talking about their work at the Learning Disability Festival in Harlow, and a further Cambridge University Hospitals event.

Speak Out Leader Dave Hobbs with VoiceAbility colleagues at the Learning Disability Festival in Harlow.

Speaking about the Harlow event, Speak Out Leader Dave Hobbs said: 

It makes me proud to know about all the amazing possibilities within the town and area.

Highlights have been the growing opportunities for people to get involved in music and arts, and seeing the amazing performances. 

It’s such a delight! Today really highlights the diverse opportunities for people within our community.”

Connections Manager Julia Rutherford spoke at the Cambridge event, where she shared a film featuring Speak Out leaders in Cambridgeshire.

Attendees included Professor Sir Stephen Powis, National Medical Director for NHS England, Professor Sir Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England, and Tom Cahill, the National Director for Learning Disability and Autism at NHS England.

In short, what a week!