Day 79: Buses, cake and prosecco #107days

Day 79 was adopted by Sara’s colleagues at Oxford, and Ulla explains below what they are up to and why:

What I’d really want to do today is to take Sara for a knees-up in London. Tequilas and all. That plan is still very much going to materialise but for now it will need to wait. Today we are doing something more constructive, as a collective of Sara’s colleagues. Various people from our group at Oxford have adopted days individually or in groups but we felt it was important to come together as a whole group too to adopt a day in support for Sara, and in Connor’s memory.

Let’s get one thing out there; Sara is one sublime academic. Many people following her blog online might not be as aware of her incredible academic standing and achievements, and the unparalleled speed and integrity with which her career has developed, under not a remotely standard set of circumstances. I personally have never met an academic quite as creative, engaged, straight-talking, believable, productive, inclusive and unassuming as Sara. Oh and did I say productive? She sits outside the box. If you check on Wikipedia (not that we’d ever do that), there’s Sara’s reluctant photo next to ‘lateral thinking’ (her picture is probably next to ‘publishing at speed’ too). Sara, like Connor, is one special person to know and to work with.

Our work is about listening to people’s stories, giving people space and respect and helping other people hear those stories. This, in essence, is what we hope that Day 79 will go towards achieving. We want to help more people hear Connor’s story. To listen and to act. What we are doing is hosting a ‘Buses, Cake and Prosecco’ event at our department, The Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford, on June 6. Connor loved buses, we love Prosecco and everyone loves cakes. Luring fellow academics and health professionals in with some cake is of course only a cover. What we really want to do is make everyone aware of Connor’s story, the appalling state of provision for young learning disabled people at our doorstep and to raise more awareness of and funds for #justiceforLB.

Not everyone in our group ever got to meet Connor, now everyone wishes they’d had. Most of us were in the office the day he died, gathered on the sofas for the devastating news, most went to his funeral and everyone has been shaken to the core. Many of us think of Sara’s and Richard’s pain every day, when we share a coffee or grab a sandwich together at lunchtime. When we read a new paper that triggers a thought or at the bus stop, waiting for the red bus. It’s not always said out loud but we always, always care. And that’s why we adopted Day 79.

 

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Day 49: An academic point? #107days

Day 49 was adopted by the Centre for Disability Research (CeDR) at Lancaster University. Hannah Morgan and Chris Hatton, two of our greatest supporters since #JusticeforLB evolved, organised and presented two events, a lecture on Institutional Abuse for first year students on the Contemporary Social Problems module and a seminar by Chris, Laughing Boy versus the Zombie Institution: Closing the new institutions for people with learning disabilities. They live tweeted the seminar and have compiled a storify about the day here.

When asked why they are supporting #107days and #JusticeforLB, Hannah had this to say:

GeorgeFoxBdg

I’ve known Sara from the disability studies circuit going back to the first Disability Studies conference we hosted here at Lancaster in 2003 and always held in the George Fox building in the picture. Since then we’ve met up at different conferences and events and always at the Lancaster Conference.  One of the things I really value about disability studies is the sense of community that has developed and the pleasure taken from watching people’s work evolve and develop over time. Sara came to the first conference as a phd student presenting ‘I’m sorry, she’s special needs”: explaining learning disabilities in public encounters. As her blog readers will know she has a particular gift for a snappy title and for writing that is engaging, rigorous and thoughtfully. I started following her blog soon after it started often laughed at the early LB tales and sharing her frustration at how little was offered and how little value attached to the dudes in our life.

I saw Sara last year at the Nordic Network on Disability Research (NNDR) Conference in Finland where Sara presented her paper in tweet length sentences. Her mastery of social media was apparent. Catching up outside sessions – in May last year – it was clear things weren’t going well for LB and that the unit was operating in a way that devalued her and their families’ contribution to LBs life. Little did we know then what was to follow.

Screenshot 2014-05-07 21.33.45 Justice for LB seminar 7 May 2014

In his presentation today Chris Hatton talked about the sparkly spiral of shame where us academics merit fourth place after providers, commissioners and regulators. He highlighted the way in which our lives remain as disconnected from the realities of many people with learning disabilities lives and that we (as a group) are just as craven in the face of (illusory?) access to influence and funding. This is true, all academics working in disability studies or elsewhere with disabled people do need frequent cold hard looks in the mirror. We need to remember why we do what we do. For me, and for many of my colleagues – LB Buses postcards have provoked lots of conversations and many offices in the department are resplendent with a buses or colours postcard. It is what – in the words of another disability studies colleagues – ‘keeps us right’.