The Brilliance of PeoplePosted on: October 29, 2020, by : Abbey Thomson
The turn of the decade in the 1990s brought with it a time for change, as the Disability Civil Rights Movement grew. Increasingly, disabled people wanted a voice of their own when decisions were made over their lives and were becoming more confident in speaking about the discrimination they faced daily.
The message was similar across the board: disabled people wanted an ordinary life in an ordinary home. This is a message still shared by disabled people and is indeed a key reason why The Usual Place exists today.
In 1996, the re-organisation of local government led to the formation of 32 new councils, where disabled people would get the chance to raise the issues that affected them with candidates.
This same year, a rural family found themselves involved in the national debate when their disabled son began his study at secondary school.
The Thomson family became the centre of a row over the lack of facilities at their local school.
Walter and son James became pioneers of the Disability Rights Movement locally, as they battled to improve conditions for disabled students. Walter kept James home from school until education bosses agreed that James could continue his lessons on the ground floor, then threatened to keep him home again until the council agreed to fund a lift for the building.
Walter fought this battle for his own sons, James and a younger Graham, who lived with Muscular Dystrophy, and for other disabled children who might have gone to the school.
Walter said at the time, “If I had sat back, nothing would have been done. I had to take my stand for the sake of my son and other disabled kids.”
The movement that Walter was a part of continues today, across the world and in Dumfries. His daughter, Abbey, continues the legacy as an employee at The Usual Place.
The Usual Place is an award-winning, values-based organisation, which was born from the voices of disabled people. While at a DG Life conference, Heather Hall listened as young people shared their concerns and fears about the lack of employment, Further Education and community-based opportunities available to young people with additional support needs. In response, Heather, and some others, set up and became the CEO of Inspired Community Enterprise Trust.
In July 2015, The Usual Place opened its doors as a training café, designed to push boundaries in delivering life-changing vocational learning opportunities to young people with additional support needs.
Over twenty years later, disabled rights have come a long way. Businesses like The Usual Place, ENABLE Scotland, DG Voice and many others enable people with additional support needs to find their own voice, under the same timeless message:
“Disabled people want ordinary lives in ordinary homes”
At The Usual Place, we advocate for rights, for opportunities, for the brilliance of people, and we hope that the world will join us.