10 years of marriageA couple with learning disabilities from New Milton celebrated 10 happy years of marriage and overcoming the hurdles they have faced along the way with a party and barbeque recently.

During their marriage, Mike and Jane Snell have faced a range of challenges, not least in the form of recent health and mobility issues. Mike, who has balance difficulties as well as Parkinson’s disease, has needed to use a wheelchair while Jane, who has Down’s syndrome, has also recently developed mobility problems. 

Despite this, Mike and Jane have celebrated the 10-year milestone, marking the occasion with a party and barbecue at their home with friends, relatives and staff.

Mike and Jane have used supported living accommodation in the town for nearly 30 years and currently live in a Sanctuary Supported Living (SSL) apartment, which provides them with onsite support when they need it.

The pair, who are both in their 50s, first moved to separate semi-independent flats in 1993 and by the end of 2003 they had become an item and moved in together, before tying the knot in 2005. 

Mike said: “The past 10 years have been fantastic and we really enjoyed celebrating it with our friends and family at New Milton.”

Jane added: “It was lovely to have everyone in one place and share stories over the barbecue. I hope our relationship proves that if you find the right person, you can have the marriage you dream of – learning disability or not.”

SSL’s local service manager, Alison Notman, said: “The past 10 years have been such a success story for Mike and Jane.

“I can still remember seeing Jane’s father smiling at her as he led her down the aisle; and it was lovely to see Jane’s mother, at the age of 95, at their anniversary celebrations.”

The two’s achievements haven’t been limited to marriage. Over the years, Mike has held down stable work in the kitchen at the local New Forest day centre, while Jane worked in a local school. Jane now looks to inspire others with learning disabilities, not least her niece Alice, who also has Down’s syndrome.

“Mike and Jane are a shining example of what people with learning disabilities can achieve and have served as trailblazers to a new generation of people with special support needs,” Alison added. “When they made their vows, a wedding among a couple with learning disabilities was very rare indeed and now, just as independent living has become more common, so too has marriage.”