My journey as a campaigner
Anil is a disability campaigner. He tells us about his journey and what he hopes to campaign on next.
Working with Leonard Cheshire
My advocacy journey began when I started volunteering for Leonard Cheshire through its ‘Can Do’ project back in March 2017. I very much wanted to do some volunteering work to help the community. Therefore, my local volunteering centre connected me with the Wolverhampton branch of the ‘Can Do’ project. It was through this that I got to hear about Leonard Cheshire’s Campaign Steering Group.
The Campaign Steering Group helps advise the charity’s policy and campaigns team through meaningful engagement with disabled people. We get to share our thoughts on the barriers and issues affecting disabled people and help inform the focus of their campaigns. I was really keen to join the Steering Group and have been involved in it since 2019.
Getting to talk about important issues
Before that, I had thought about campaigning, especially about employment. I wanted to see disabled people getting the same rights as everyone else when it comes to employment – and every other aspect of life! So it was really exciting that I got to be involved in Leonard Cheshire’s employment campaign. I got to go to Manchester and do some professional filming for it, where I shared some of the barriers I had faced when trying to find work. It was such a great experience. I thought I’d be nervous in front of the camera, but as long as you know what you’re saying, it’s fine! And the team behind the scenes were great too.
Being part of the Campaign Steering Group also means I get to meet up with other disabled people to talk about these issues. We get to be involved in the campaign planning process, and I get to share my views and help determine the goals of future campaign work. It feels fantastic to be a part of, and when you look back at your own history, it makes you feel proud and boosts your confidence!
When a person speaks from their own experience, it can make even more of an impact. Campaigning is a way of putting lots of strong voices together and hopefully incite some action too – that’s the whole point of campaigning, after all!
Rising cost of living
Of course, the cost of living crisis is affecting us all at the moment, so I’m keen to share my thoughts on that too. And accessible transport is something I’m passionate about as well. From my personal experience, I recently had an operation which means it’s challenging to get in and out of the car at the moment. So I rely on taxis quite regularly to visit family and friends. Before the cost of living crisis, taxi fares from Wolverhampton were £10 one way, and now it’s already gone up to £12 or £13. You can feel the pinch. Not to mention bills are going up, and every time you go into the supermarket, the price of a product has gone up.
This is why campaigning is so important – and making sure you have strong advocates as part of that is vital. A charity speaking out can make a big difference. But when a person speaks from their own experience, it can make even more of an impact. Campaigning is a way of putting lots of strong voices together and hopefully incite some action too – that’s the whole point of campaigning, after all! I hope we see some positive changes soon when it comes to the cost of living crisis.
Advice to future campaigners
If I could give some advice to future campaigners I would say to think about the different ways you can campaign. Think about different channels. Don’t just rely on social media because you need to be careful not to post too much or over advertise. Too much of this can put people off.
When I first started, I thought campaign content and messages would be the same for everyone. But you need to consider who you’re targeting and your audience. And you can shape that content depending on who you’re talking to. Don’t forget to make your content accessible too! But my top tip would be to consider what you are passionate about. This, I believe, will help you drive and strengthen your campaign.
What I want to campaign about next
Looking forward, there are several topics I am passionate about and would love to campaign on. I would love for high streets to be more accessible, from shops to restaurants and cinema chains. In my local cinema, there is now a lift that means I can sit at the back with my wheelchair rather than at the very front. How great would it be for that to be a standard across cinemas? It would also be great for cinemas to have audio descriptions and subtitles on every genre of film.
When it comes to transport, we need to assess the cost of things from taxi fares to train tickets. This will be even more important during the cost of living crisis. I would like to see a national scheme introduced by the government where accessible taxi fares are subsidised for people with disabilities – one day!
What would you love to campaign about?