Cambridge’s Annual Disability Lecture

I woke up this morning happy, relaxed, and quite tired. I’d got back to the castle very late last night having spent the evening in Cambridge. I was there because I’d been invited to give the 12th Annual Disability Lecture at St John’s College.

Cambridge is beautiful, and I was made incredibly welcome in the short time I was there. The subject of my talk was, ‘Laughter as a Catalyst For Change.’ To me, humour is one of the most powerful tools we have for connecting with other people and it was a privilege to be able to explore this at such a significant (and busy) event.

The event had been organised by the University’s Disability Resource Centre who provide support for the 10% of Cambridge’s students who are disabled. Talking to some of those involved with student support before the lecture I was shocked to hear about the impact of the on-going cuts to the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA). It seems that although some of the cuts proposed in last year’s poorly thought through government policy on DSA have been postponed until 2016, many have not. The future for disabled students is being put at risk and equality in education is being undermined.

In this climate of surreptitious cuts and deepening divides, creativity, satire and laughter seem particularly important. The atmosphere at the talk was amazing and despite hearing about the incredibly difficult situation disability support services are facing I was encouraged by the diversity of the audience. Both the University and the local community were represented, and seeing so many people interested and engaged in issues around disability left me feeling hopeful.

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