Barbara works in Starbucks as a Barista for two days a week and as a waitress in Ikea’s customer restaurant the other two days. Barbra said: “I enjoy working in both places, I love socialising with people and co-workers and having two-part time jobs also means that I earn my own money to live independently.”
Barbara has been living independently for a year now and enjoys everything about it, doing all her own house work and paying her own bills. Barbara gets a little help from support workers who check up on her to see if she’s doing ok, but otherwise lives totally independently.
She's a very social person and enjoys spending time with friends, she said “Being independent means I can live the way I want to live, going to drama classes, playing tag rugby or starting at a local running club. I choose what I want to do and do it.”
Barbara has been involved with Mencap since the age of two, when she attended Mencap’s old Segal House Nursery in Belfast and later became a Mencap Young Ambassador and a member of Mencap’s National Inclusion Steering Group.
“Here I Am, accept me for who I am and what I can do in the future, work, get married and have a family, just life, same as everyone else.
Living independently and having two paid jobs is something she's especially proud of, as well as being in a long term relationship with her partner. She hopes that this changes people perceptions of people with a learning disability and whether or not they should have long term relationships. Her big plan for the future is to get married and maybe one day have a family.
“How people treat me comes down to their approach, it depends on their thoughts and perceptions of people with a learning disability. The ‘Here I Am’ campaign is raising awareness of people with a learning disability. See me for who I am, see past my disability and don’t judge me or assume things or try to take over. Here I Am – See me for who I am, and what I am and not for my disability.”
She adds: “There used to be limits and things that used to stop me from doing things, but you have to get past things, it’s like running through a wall, you build up a wall of things that could stop you and then you have to go through it. You have to be determined and be able to do what you can without people telling you that you can’t do something. You have to be positive and confident in yourself to do the things I can and be who I want to be.”
Got questions about learning disability? Who better to ask than someone who has a learning disability!
We got Aeren to answer some questions. Take a look at the chat to hear her thoughts and experience of having a learning disability...