Team Testimonials

The WAME team shares their experiences of working on the Hidden Disabilities campaign, the impact and the changes they’ve personally made.

Sandra’s Story

I initially became involved in the ‘we all matter eh?’ campaign when I was invited to record a video about Asperger’s syndrome and how the condition impacts on my day-to-day life. I had taken the decision to ‘go public’ with my diagnosis a few months earlier, so making the video very much fitted in with my wish to share my experiences and try and raise awareness of autism.

Giving me a voice
I would not feel able to stand up in front of a group and talk, so the video is a means for me to share my personal experiences with an ‘audience’ (and no doubt a much wider one than I could ever reach in person) without having to deal with the anxiety that public speaking would cause for me. I never been involved in any kind of campaign before, partly because I felt that doing so would be too challenging due to my social and sensory issues. Being part of the ‘we all matter eh?’ campaign has given me a sense of purpose, and the feeling that I am making a contribution to something that is going to make a difference to many people in our community – not only those with disabilities, but everyone. At some time or another we are all going to come into contact with someone who has some form of disability (hidden or more visible), and if the community generally has a better level of understanding and acceptance, that will be good for everyone.

Building connections
In addition to my own video, I have also been involved in transcribing a number of other ‘we all matter eh?’ videos in preparation for the subtitling process. I am no longer working, but have audio-typing skills so this has been an ideal way for me to make good use of those skills. I have been privileged to hear other people’s stories and to learn from them. I’ve
found that I often relate to many of the challenges other people face, even though their disability is very different from my own. What has come through strongly on all the videos I’ve watched are the unique challenges of living with a hidden disability, namely the fact that there is nothing to immediately indicate to others that you might be struggling with something. That has resulted in a sense of connection for me, and feeling that I am not alone in the kinds of day-to-day challenges I deal with.

Being involved with this campaign, and in different ways, has given me a sense of pride, empowerment, and the feeling of being part of something special. I’ve been able to get involved in ways that work for me and do not result in stress or anxiety. It also gave me the confidence to attend a GDA meeting for the very first time.

Perhaps the most exciting thing I’ve learnt is that, while disabilities are often referred to as ‘differences’, the challenges that individuals face are often surprisingly similar in many ways.

Gez’s Story

Working as part of the WAME project team has opened my eyes to the variety and complexity of conditions and disabilities with which people in Guernsey are living.

During production I’ve been amazed by the bravery of each and every participant. Being willing to share the extraordinary life challenges they face due to their disability publicly, in the hope that it may make the lives of others better is extremely courageous.

I see the WAME campaign as a way for members of the public to walk in the footsteps of those with disabilities and to gain a greater awareness of how small changes in our own behaviours and actions can make a big difference to those living with a disability.

I also see the campaign as a way for those with disabilities, their families and friends, to connect with each other. I’ve learnt that the fact that some disabilities are hidden means that people might be left isolated, perhaps not even knowing that they have a disability in the first place.

In working on the WAME project I’ve realised my own relative ignorance about what it means for people to live with a disability. I’ve become more aware over the course of the project and I hope that the videos, fact sheets and other materials have the same effect for those who see them.

Olly’s Story

I was very happy to be part of the campaign to change local perceptions of disability. I was involved with the video production and I incorporated subtitles into many of them in order to make them more accessible to the wider community – a key objective of the initiative.

Every film we have made was unique in its own way and from a personal point of view it was enlightening to hear first hand how islanders cope day-to-day with different disabilities. Whilst it was disheartening to hear some of their stores and how they have had to struggle, this was contrasted by the support they have received from friends and family and the Guernsey public to overcome the small challenges a hidden disability presents every day.

I hope the videos help to raise awareness, stop and make people think, change attitudes and help bring about behaviour change. They have certainly made me stop and think about how I live my life.

I myself have made a few seemingly mior changes in response to what I have heard and learnt:

  • Sandra, who has Asperger’s Syndrome gets irritated by people who leave their brake lights on at traffic lights as it irritates some of her senses, so I make a conscious effort to use the handbrake where possible;
  • I was amazed by the sophistication behind technology some islanders with hidden disabilities use. It was eye opening to film subjects talking about their experiences with various coping mechanisms. Hearing dogs for example, know when to wake up thier owner in the morning, alert them to loud noises such as fire alarms etc.
  • Hearing – I now notice the variety of background noise in public places now and am more conscious to find quiet spaces when meeting anyone who is hard of hearing and I endeavour, where possible, to speak clearly so they can lip read.
  • I am less quick to judge without knowing the full story, as speaking to those who live with Fibromyalgia for example explained that their physical state can change daily – meaning they may need walking aids some days whilst some days they can walk freely.

Overall the subjects I have filmed as part of this campaign do lead normal lives, and the best thing is, there are practical ways in which we can support them. I have been very happy to have been involved with the production and promotion of this GDA campaign and hope that it has demonstrated to the public in a light hearted and easy to understand way that I hope the Guernsey public can aim to make one small change every day to enable those with hidden disabilities to lead easier lives.

Lorenzo’s Story

I was happy that the campaign gave me the opportunity to share my story and I felt strongly about showing how good and fulfilling life can be with an impairment.
Sure there are challenges, but this is how I cope now… and this is how, with a bit of public understanding, it could be even better. The best bit of it all, is that some of the things that will help a hearing impaired person are so simple, like facing them to help them lip read – (which is also basic manners incidentally) or minimising background noise.
I hope my video plays a small part in changing perceptions, removing the awkwardness/uncertainty on how to engage with someone with an impairment.
The videos saw a lot of social media engagement which was humbling. I hope they have made at least a small positive change to islanders’ perceptions and understanding of those with a hearing impairment or other disabilities.