A new project which aims to ensure people with learning disabilities are not forgotten from history, has recently launched its first podcast episode.
The AllTogether Project has created a set of resources including a pupil booklet, a guide for teachers and a PowerPoint presentation which all examine how people with learning disabilities have been seen by the societies in which they lived.
The first episode of the podcast – “Disabled? How far have people with learning disabilities been included in the societies they lived in?” – examines the inclusion and exclusion of people with learning disabilities in society from the prehistoric period up to the present day, and has been adapted and read by people with lived experience.
The podcast is the brainchild of Ben Newmark, which has been co-developed with Shaun Webster MBE. As a history teacher, Ben initially started the project after realising that most mainstream history books make no mention of people with learning disabilities.
People with learning disabilities need to be able to “access their own histories”
Ben’s daughter has Williams Syndrome, a rare genetic irregularity characterised by developmental delays before and after birth, which along with many gifts, often causes learning disabilities.
Ben wanted to make sure that people with learning disabilities, like his daughter, were represented in history, so, he began by creating a textbook which could be used by teachers and pupils alike.
“It just seemed to me such a blind spot. We’ve had a lot of really great thinking in the history teaching community about diversifying our curriculum but I couldn’t find anything about people with learning disability. As I started looking into it I saw what a shame this was. There’s just so may fascinating and important stories. The more I learned the more passionate about this I became. People with learning disabilities are entitled to have their stories told,” Ben explains.
To ensure that that the textbook conveyed the right message and was an appropriate resource, Ben sent it to Shaun Webster. Shaun had two pieces of feedback: firstly, the podcast was a good idea because in his view, people with learning disabilities had been 'washed out' of history books; and secondly, the booklet was not very accessible for many people with learning disabilities, which was an issue.
Shaun highlighted that although it is extremely important for school children to learn about the history of people with learning disabilities, it is even more important that people with learning disability are able to access their own history. So, together they made an accessible version.
The resources have already begun to be used in schools such as Lodge Park Academy (Ben’s school), Harris Westminster and Castle Mead Academy.
Everyone involved in the podcast has been paid for their work
However, as some people with learning disabilities struggle to read, the pair thought that an audio version of the textbook would be more widely accessible to the community. It was at this point they decided to create a podcast, read by people with learning disabilities themselves.
It was extremely important to both Ben and Shaun that those involved in the podcast were paid for their work, so they set up a GoFundMe page which raised more than £1,000 in a single weekend.
Once they had raised the money, they enrolled Paul Le Keux – a talented musician and sound editor who also works with people with learning disabilities – to professionally produced the podcast; as well as Sam Barnard and other professional actors to read it.
In the first episode, which aired on the 9th October, the readers describe what it would have been like to be someone with a learning disability in past societies.
Shaun, who hosted the episode, said: “The reason this is so important is people with learning disabilities have been overlooked and washed out of history lessons in schools. This project will mean future generations have a better understanding of learning disabilities, which we hope will lead to less hate crime in the future.”
To access the resources and podcast discussed in this article, head to the AllTogether Project's website.