Students with disabilities and learning difficulties are taking part in a unique University of Liverpool training scheme that enables them to educate those with similar disabilities to themselves.
Peer Advocacy Changing Things Together (PACTT) helps people with mental health problems, learning difficulties and physical disabilities to achieve their goals through education. The programme is organised by the Moving on with Learning (MOWL) project, in the University's Department of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work.
Heidi Kenworthy, MOWL project manager, said: "With appropriate support, training and positive encouragement Peer Advocates are well equipped to provide quality support and valued friendships. MOWL is about giving a voice to the voiceless and our students have a wealth of experience of not having their voices heard in society.
"The University embraces diversity and disability and celebrates the fact that our students come with experiences that can be used in teaching other students across a number of departments - medicine, psychology, psychiatry and law."
Two of MOWL's students, Terry Kelly, 48, and Bill Blunn, 66, are training as Peer Advocates and are also enrolled on a Go Higher course in Social and Environmental Studies, which teaches students the skills they will need to complete a degree. Terry has learning difficulties and received no formal education when he was young. Bill spent more than 30 years in a long stay hospital without resources to progress in education.
Terry said: "People of all ages with various disabilities tend to be treated like young children, but just like everyone else we have goals that we want to achieve in life. This could be running your own home, travelling to new places, or cooking your own meals. MOWL shows us how to reach these goals."
MOWL runs modules teaching students about their health and physical well being, as well as addressing the attitudes of society towards those with disabilities. The programme helps students learn the importance of self-advocacy, independent living and equal opportunities and how to teach these skills to others who have similar disabilities to themselves.
Terry added: "I was so proud when I became a University of Liverpool student. Through the support of the MOWL team, I have achieved my goal of moving into my own flat and living independently. Other people told me that I would never be able to do this. I have developed skills I didn't know I had and now I am helping other people move on in their lives."
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