Michelle wins the Changing Communities award in The Learning Disability and Autism...

On International Day of Persons with Disabilities we are delighted to announce an amazing award achievement for Michelle Williams. A passionate disability activist, Michelle has won the award for ‘Changing Communities’ in the National Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List. Michelle was previously supported at a Livability Conwy service in Llandudno, and now works at the service one day a week. Michelle was one of 60 winners nominated from 600 entries, and she has now won the category.

Why has Michelle won?

The award recognises Michelle’s outstanding contribution to disabled people in the Llandudno region, where she has set up a friendship group as part of Conwy Connect. As a result, she has been elected as rep to the National Council of All Wales People First, which meets in Cardiff. It discusses issues affecting the every day lives of people with disabilities. Michelle has also spoken and represented issues important to disabled people at the National Conference in 2016.

Michelle is a true change-maker when it comes to her disability advocacy work. In this article, we share Michelle’s story.

Better together: Michelle on getting sociable

With a long-term partner, a job and a dog, life is good for former Livability service user Michelle. But what gets Michelle up in the morning is trying to help disabled people like herself to beat social isolation and get the most out of life.

Where is home for you, Michelle?

I live in Abergele in North Wales with my parents and my lovely spaniel, Bruno. I used to live at a Livability residential home. My partner James isn’t far away. We met just over a year ago – he’s the love of my life! Along with Bruno, of course.

Where do you work?

It’s a mixture of paid and voluntary work. I have paid admin work one day a week at Livability Conwy’s office in Llandudno. I want to increase my work skills and get more experience so I can do more paid work. I’ve also been volunteering for disability organisations since 2005.

Tell us what you do as a volunteer

My personal experience of disability has made me passionate about making life better for other people. I want to give something back. I’ve always been quite outgoing and back in 2006, I helped to set up a friendship group as part of Conwy Connect [local organisation for people with learning disabilities]. We organise all sorts of activities, like meals out, karaoke and trips to London shows. We block-book tickets and arrange transport, and people can book through us.

How successful has this group been?

Well, there’s over 90 people who are part of Conwy Connect now. We have ‘connect buddies’ for people so they don’t worry about coming on their own. If you live at home, it gives you a chance to get together and get a break from your parents!

Has this led to other disability activism?

Yes, the Conwy Connect work led to me being elected as rep to the National Council of All Wales People First, which meets in Cardiff. We discuss issues affecting the everyday lives of people with disabilities. Then I got roped into speaking at the national conference in 2016. I was a bag of nerves the first time but I’ve spoken in public many times now.

Why do you give so much time to this work?

Because socialising makes people happy and when we get together in Conwy Connect, I can see how happy people are. My goal is that people get more confidence and go out and mix. I feel I’m making a difference here – the friendship group would not be going if not for me.

What is the Leaders’ List about?

The Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List 2018 is the UK’s first national listing of people with learning disabilities and/or autism who are helping make life better for themselves and others.

The aim of the Leaders’ List is to help the media find brilliant spokespeople for future stories, to help speed up social change. The Leaders’ List is a project created by not-for-profit support provider Dimensions, in association with Learning Disability England, VODG and the Guardian newspaper. Read more about the Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List 2018.

Read more inspiring stories about how disabled people are changing their communities

Livability’s Christmas campaign shares more stories about how disabled people are changing their communities, visit the campaign site here.