It’s Learning Disability Awareness week and once again the APLE Collective is proudly highlighting the event.

The Cornwall coastline goes from the Rame Peninsula right down to Land’s End and back towards the Bristol Channel to Bude. It’s as part of the culture of Cornwall as much as the Pasty, tin mining, wind farms and yes second homes. But there is part of Cornwall that doesn’t always receive the same attention: the Isles of Scilly.

The islands are around 30 miles from Land’s End and you can only get there by Ferry (the Scillonian 2 which is going to be replaced as it’s over 30 years old) or by air (not by a fancy jet but by a small propelled fixed-wing passenger type) Tresco and Bryher are again even smaller.

Why am I talking about the islands for #LearningDisabilityWeek? Well in one of the meetings I attended in Cornwall, it was mentioned that there is one person with a learning disability that  calls the islands their home. Those with learning disabilities, like many other types of disability, can become isolated and go off the radar from the rest of society. But on this occasion, this may not be the case and these are the reasons why. The Isles of Scilly consists of relatively small islands, the main one is barely twenty miles long, so by their very nature locals probably know each other very well. The chances of a friendly neighbour knocking next door’s front door to see if they are ok are probably higher than in places such as Birmingham, Plymouth or even Torpoint. The communities on the islands are probably stronger and more welcoming so the chances of someone with a learning disability being able to contribute to the community in a meaningful way are much more likely. So the person with a learning disability living on Scilly could have a better quality of life than the rest of the UK’s learning disability population.  

We all know that minority groups such as those with learning disabilities are either underrepresented or not at all represented in many areas of our society. NASA does employ people with disabilities, but to my knowledge, this doesn’t include potential employees from the LD community. Even though NASA does employ artists. I would love to be part of the Special Olympics still someday, but being from Cornwall this is highly unlikely. Dreams can be powerful, they can inspire and they can change closed-off minds.

Dreams go across borders and can merge with new ones, regardless of where you live. As one famous Doctor once said, have a “Fantastic” Learning Disability Week (“you’ve earned it”).

Would an optician on the Scilly Islands charge someone with a learning disability £165 to replace a pair of glasses?

Written by APLE Collective’s Artist in Residence, Chris Burns.