Warwick District Mencap customers creating a book about their disabilities

The Warwick District Mencap customers at the Warwick centre.
The Warwick District Mencap customers at the Warwick centre.

People with learning disabilities are getting the unique opportunity to tell their story with the production of their very own book.

Heart of England Mencap is a registered charity that is linked to the national charity Mencap.

Tony, one of the Warwick Pathway centre users, with some of the group's artwork.

Tony, one of the Warwick Pathway centre users, with some of the group's artwork.

The charity provides services and support across Warwickshire and Worcestershire for those with learning disabilities.

These services include supported living, residential care, outreach care, short breaks, respite and a range of day activities.

Later this month the charity will be launching their ‘accessible book club’ for their service users.

In December 2016, the charity launched an appeal asking people to donate funds to help buy ‘Books Beyond Words’, which is a series of picture books.

The Warwick district based customers, who attend the Mencap daytime activity centre Warwick Pathway, will be going one step further for the new book club.

The service users in the Warwick centre will not only read the new books, but they are also taking on the task of writing one themselves.

Warwick District Council provided Warwick Pathway with a grant to help create the book.

Cath Errington, fundraising manager for Heart of England Mencap, said: “Books Beyond Words are picture stories, perfect for adults with a learning disability who prefer to read using pictures rather than words.

“Some are fictional while others illustrate scenarios and issues our customers may face, opening-up communication channels.

“At our day activity service Pathway, in Warwick, we’re going a little further than simply reading these books, taking advantage of a wonderful opportunity to work with the illustrator of many of them to create our own story too.

“Our customers wanted to create their own book to highlight some of the issues and bullying they have faced as a person with a learning disability, and to tell people a bit more about what a learning disability is, so that people in their local community understand some of the problems they face.”

Lucy Bergonzi, is the illustrator who has been working with the customers at the centre in Warwick for several weeks, where has been helping them draw their own stories, which will be compiled into a book.

The stories will be compiled into a Heart of England Mencap book, which will then be printed. Once the book has been published it will be taken to local schools to open-up discussions about learning disabilities to help break-down barriers and tackle stigma.

Shivorne Poole, activities coordinator for Warwick Pathway, said: “The idea is to have the books in schools, police stations, libraries and local community centres for them to be around for people to pick them up to read them and see the lives of people with disabilities.

“We want to change the way people view disabilities, it is getting better but we need to get through to young people so it carries through with them in their adulthood.”

“The work that has come from these ladies and gents over the last few weeks has been phenomenal.”

Jane, who uses the centre in Warwick, said: “I am really enjoying taking part and I like coming here because the support workers are brilliant.”

Trudy, another centre user said: “I like coming here because you make more friends and because of the support workers and I like the activities, arts, crafts and jewellery making. The book is about how people about their disabilities.”

Lucy Bergonzi, the illustrator for the project said: “This project was inspired by the books and Shivorne was keen for the group to create their own book about experiences, feelings, friendships to show people what their lives are like.

“It is great to have anything that gets the issue out there that normalises everybody and makes everybody more equal.

“I am really proud of the group. It is not easy for a group to stay focused when the outcome is in the future. I think they will have a great sense of achievement and they will be really proud.

Mair Evans, arts and development officer for Warwick district council, added: “I am delighted that Warwick district council is in a position to be able to award funding to support this innovative Mencap project, which will not only highlight the day to day challenges faced by those in our community with learning difficulties, but will also be a source of inspiration.”

The accessible book club will be launched at Stratford Literary Festival on Friday April 28 at Stratford ArtsHouse.