We are writers, so we can sometimes take it for granted that communicating is easy. But for many people, it can be almost impossible and it takes a special person to enable silent voices to be heard.
Two ladies particularly stood out with their stories of caring for loved ones with disabilities, and how they used writing to support people with disability, as well as find a carer's network. Their story is inspiring and I wanted to share it here.
Today's article is from Joy Thomas, co-editor of Silent Voices, on how the book came about.
In 2016, Jo Allmond and I took part in a lively panel discussion on “Writing about Difference” at the Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival.
This was the first time we had met.
After the festival, we re-connected via social media and started to discuss our experiences and how we felt about being both mothers and carers of disabled children, albeit now both adults.
We live a fair distance from each other but agreed to meet up at a halfway point to share our poetry and writing. Between us, we had already published books of verse about a journey with a disabled son, put experiences of life with a disabled daughter into verse, and published two children’s books about a disabled fairy.
We were amazed at how alike our journey’s had been. How fighting battles, ensuring as much as possible a decent standard of living and care for our family member and staying strong, sometimes against what seemed like all the odds, had become part of our lives.
Both of us had found writing about our emotions to be therapeutic and it helped us to deal with each situation as it came along. We strongly felt we wanted to do something to draw attention to the need for a better future for all people, not just the able.
After some discussion deciding how we could help others with disabilities have a voice, we came up with the idea of compiling a book of poetry written by the disabled people themselves and/or their carers. There had to be others out there who would like to share their emotions and frustrations. Some who had never put pen to paper, some who had written about their situation but never thought they would be published.
Silent Voices Speak
And so our book started to evolve. We received poems from people with dementia, mental health issues, physical disabilities and carers. And they were truly humbling. We are so grateful to them for allowing us to include their poetry in the book, their book, and hope we can show this to people who need to know what it is like to constantly fight for your place in society.
Little did we realise that from a chance meeting just over twelve months ago, Silent Voices would emerge.
We would encourage writers not to shy away from the challenge of highlighting the plight of the disabled and to emphasise that they also have goals and ambitions.
Include them in your poems, include them in your stories. Do your homework. Remember also not all disabilities are visible. Write with respect and sensitivity. They deserve it. They should not be held back by a system that is not working, whether that is through ignorance or financial constraints.
Hopefully, we will have persuaded others to write and turn their feelings into words, helping to spread the message. We need to ensure the people responsible for structuring the future for the disabled and their carers hear our voices, making the struggles, battles and frustrations worthwhile.
Now our book has been published, the response we have had has been so positive, more than we could have hoped for, but more than that it has given us a new lease of life to continue our battle to see that not just our vulnerable son and daughter will have a safe and secure future but also those who have constant struggles in life.
After years of feeling very alone, it's wonderful to have someone else alongside with the same goal.
Joy Thomas has lived in Gloucestershire since 1963. She has three children, three stepchildren, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
She wrote her first book, Slipped Through The Net, to try and share her experiences of having a child with a learning disability and Asperger’s syndrome, exploring through poetry the effect it has on the wider family.
Now retired, she lives with husband Owen, collie dog Bonnie, and Maisie the rabbit in Quedgeley, Gloucestershire. Her main interests are writing and music.
She feels very strongly about the constant cuts in services, the battles people frequently face to obtain placements, diagnosis or suitable support as carers, siblings or partners and will continue, through her writing, to highlight the struggles experienced in the hope of making a difference.
Jo Allmond lives in Shropshire and is a very proud mother and grandmother. She started out in life as a ballet dancer, studying at the Royal Ballet School and had the privilege of working with Fonteyn and Nureyev.
Life changed when her children came along especially her daughter Jess who has learning and physical disabilities. Jess has made Jo the person she is today. She wouldn’t change Jess for the world but would change the red tape that surrounds those who are disabled and vulnerable. She is passionate about trying to help and change the image of those who are vulnerable by giving them a voice and to help the carers who are struggling to cope with everything that goes with caring for a vulnerable adult.
She writes children’s books with her daughter about a disabled fairy who loves to help others and now goes around schools and colleges with her daughter to talk about what life is like for someone with disabilities. www.jessthegothfairy.com