According to the United Nations, more than one billion people, approximately 15 per cent of the world's population, live with some form of disability. This year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3 December) focuses on empowerment. Care and support staff at Hightown Housing Association are passionate about supporting service users feel confident enough to strive for their personal goals.

Mimi’s story

Thanks in part to the support of staff at Hightown, a supported housing resident secured a part time job at Heirs and Graces Day Nursery in Tring working as a Teaching Assistant.

Mimi has Cerebral Palsy and is a wheelchair user who lives at one of Hightown’s supported housing schemes in Tring for people with physical and learning disabilities, as well as mental health issues. Having only ever lived with her family, she decided to move to the scheme to gain more independence. Mimi has her own self-contained flat with a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and living room. Each resident has a personalised support plan to help reach their full potential, build confidence and make decisions regarding their life.

During her time looking for local volunteering opportunities, Mimi found that some buildings had limited accessibility for wheelchair users. As a result, she was in some cases unable to progress past an initial meeting. Heirs and Graces Nursery is fully accessible. They have recently renovated their entrance, including an access ramp and hand rails.

Mimi has qualifications in English, Maths and Children’s Development. Instead of offering Mimi a volunteer role, the staff at Heirs and Graces were so impressed that they offered her a paid position working two days a week. She will be helping children aged 2 – 3 years old. Mimi had support from staff at the scheme when first making contact with local schools and nurseries.

Mimi said:

“The staff are friendly and chatty and always on hand to help if needed. They supported me in my search for a volunteering role by asking local nurseries and schools and getting contacts for me to meet with. To be offered a paid job out of it was a lovely surprise!”

Since starting her Teaching Assistant role in summer, Mimi has flourished. She loves working with the children and is thrilled that she was given the opportunity to join the Heirs and Grace’s staff team.

Mimi now makes trips into the town centre independently, which she did not do when she first moved into the scheme. She also volunteers with ‘The Inclusion Project’. The project runs activities to promote a healthy, social and active lifestyle for adults with learning disabilities. The aim is for people with learning disabilities to be immersed into the local community.