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Young disabled people call for the right to live the lives they choose

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Divergent Influencers will hold conference this week

Nearly a third of young people living with a disability across Scotland say they are not asked basic questions about their future aspirations and don’t receive adequate support to help them achieve their goals.

These are the findings of a survey of more than 200 people aged between the ages of 16 and 25.

Significantly, it was carried out by young people who have disabilities themselves. 

The Divergent Influencers, a group assembled by health and social care charity, ARC Scotland, with financial backing from the Scottish Government and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, will officially unveil the results of their consultation during a day-long conference. 

The event, Hear our Voices, Respect our Choices, will take place in-person and online, on  Friday, 4 March at Edinburgh's Dynamic Earth.

It’s been created by the Divergent Influencers to highlight the challenges facing young people with disabilities transitioning from childhood to adulthood. 

The event has been organised by this group of young disabled people, along with parents, carers and staff from ARC Scotland and has been designed to give them a unique platform to speak to people in power about what matters to them.

Divergent Influencer, Rameez Haq (23), was diagnosed with autism at the age of four and lives in Edinburgh. He is in his first year at Edinburgh Napier University studying for a BSc in biomedical science. He is one of the seven Divergent Influencers. 

Rameez said: “The title of the conference, Hear our Voices, Respect our Choices, was my idea. It reflects our experiences and what we hope to achieve. As young people living with various disabilities our voices are often ignored. We deserve to live the lives we choose and the support to enable us to do that.”

Rameez Haq - all pictures by Jannica Honey/ARC Scotland.

Claire D’All, 27, who is also a member of the Divergent Influencers, has a BSc Honours degree in applied computing and works part-time for Euan’s Guide, a website which reviews disabled access across UK venues. 

Dundee-based Claire, pictured at the top of this story, was born with congenital muscular dystrophy. She is a wheelchair user and is passionate about challenging perceptions of people with a disability. She is also one of The Divergent Influencers and is taking part in the conference.

Claire explained: “Young disabled people have as much potential as anyone else, we just need additional support to allow us to achieve our ambitions. I have a job, my own flat, a puppy and a life that I am trying to live in the best way I can.

"This conference highlights the issues faced by other young people living with a disability. The fact it is online as well as in-person means it is inclusive for everyone, which is a huge bonus."

The conference will be opened virtually by Clare Haughey, MSP, minister for children and young people.  

ARC Scotland’s director James Fletcher said: “For too many young disabled people and their families the move from childhood to adulthood is stressful and challenging at a time when they should be excited about their future. 

"This event has been created by the Divergent Influencers and our parents and carers group to give them opportunity to speak directly to decision-makers about their experiences – and what can be done to make things better.”