Story 17

First-hand knowledge

I think, like most people, I knew about Leonard Cheshire long before I had anything to do with the charity.

Vicci Chittenden

My uncle was an RAF navigator pilot, so I knew a bit about him through that. But also the public knew of him and how he wanted to achieve an inclusive society.

I then came to use Leonard Cheshire care support at home in Kent, as I was diagnosed with MS in my twenties. I was asked to join as a trustee in 2012, so I have first-hand knowledge both about the services and how the organisation is run.

I have to say, although I am disabled, I don’t like the word disability — in the end, we all have something that needs support. Ultimately I believe ‘disability’ is down to society.

I have always been amazed at how even on a community level, society does not include disabled people. I wanted to go to my local pub and restaurant, but it was always, ‘No, we don’t have accessible toilets.’

Even when there are disabled services, sometimes they don’t work. I was once in a so-called ‘accessible’ toilet in the train station in Rome. The moment we shut the door, and we moved, the loo flushed, the taps ran and the shower went full flow. It was very funny and wet!

So I often say I don’t feel disabled, I just need equipment and tools to get around.

As things change, I think it’s vitally important that people think about how the world we are in can accommodate everyone. This is why I joined Leonard Cheshire’s customer action network. We need to inform the people taking decisions at top, and make them understand the impact of their decisions on the people who use the services. For the same reasons, I joined the trustee board in 2012, which was, and still is, a great honour.

And the future? If we are going to move with the times, we need to know what inclusivity means for all of us.

We want to be integrated and included in society. Not made to feel we are burden, or that different means other and separate.

In the end, we are all part of the same economy and culture. Move that boundary for all of us, and we have a better society.

In the end, we are all part of the same economy and culture. Move that boundary for all of us, and we have a better society.