This is Thomas.
Thomas, like so many thousands of children and adults like him, are part of the many ‘unseen’ of our society. People, and their families, who we have not designed our world to include. Excluded through simple practicalities that we all take for granted. Like a step (that needs a ramp). A doorway (that needs to be foot wider). Like that very basic of human need – toilets (Changing Places), and so much more. And it is a catch 22 situation. There is little provision, because people don’t ‘see’ the need, and whilst we don’t see people like Thomas, we forget/don’t think/don’t remember to think of provision, and whilst there is no provision it is far too epic an achievement to simply get out of the house.
Last week, when we were doing a photoshoot to try and push diversity on our creatives and packaging, we got in touch with Thomas and his mum to see if they could come and take part. It was wonderful when they said yes, and we were lucky to be able to offer an outdoor accessible, socially distanced venue and photoshoot.
Thomas has PMLD – Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties.
I’ve known Thomas for several years, since I first met him at @Hope House, the children’s hospice (maybe one of the most joyous, happy, life affirming places in the world, please do give them a follow!) When we first met I was doing a workshop for six or so children, all of them with life limiting conditions, and Thomas was also there with his mum and dad and sister visiting for some respite care. I remember turning around at one point, in this busy room full of bubbles, to see Thomas’ sister Emily covering him in mountains and mountains of soft bubble foam, with both of them laughing away under the clouds of bubbles! It was the loveliest moment, seeing that just by using bubbles, these two were playing together and ‘messing around’ like any other siblings.
Since then Thomas has become part of our Dr Zigs family, he’s been to see us several times, he’s been put IN bubbles, he’s product tested our Sensory Kit, tried our different scented mixes, and he’s even moved me to tears when his mum send me a video where he had learnt to use his eye gaze technology (against all odds and the advice of the ‘experts’) to ask his mum to make bubbles, again and again and again.
Now Thomas means so much to me and to Dr Zigs, not just because of this story, but also because he seriously LOVES bubbles. No other person I have ever met has such great giggles when they see bubbles. And seeing Thomas always, without fail, makes me feel happy.
When it came to having Thomas on our packaging and creatives, part of me didn’t really want to mention the fact that he is disabled, or differently abled. I would just like Thomas to be there, and his smile alone to represent our bubbles.
Yet chatting with his mum, and reading something the disability advocate @JoannaGrace wrote, made me learn and realise, that actually mentioning Thomas, the fact that he has PMLD, and simply for him to be SEEN, is really and importantly what I need to be doing.
So when it comes to Thomas’ beautiful smiling photos on our Bubbles lets use this as a learning opportunity. Thomas has Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties. He needs Changing Places. He needs provision. AND he is the most lovable, giggly, happy little bubbler I have ever met in my life.
Find out more about Thomas and PMLD by following ‘Riding on a Star’ (https://ridingonastar201295083.wordpress.com/) and find out more about the valiant work behind achieving national rights and standards by following @Joanna Grace (http://www.thesensoryprojects.co.uk/) here.
Join the @ChangingPlaces campaign http://www.changing-places.org/
Share the PMLD Standards here: http://www.pmldlink.org.uk/
And do take a moment to follow @TyGobaith, @HopeHouse too. You will be inspired.
#giantbubbles #pmld #hopehouse #childrenshospice #shielding #drzigs #bethechange #makingtheunseenseen #humanrights #disabilityrights #productshoot #photoshoot #brandcreatives #brandimage #madeinuk #bubbles #ecotoys #ecoethicalfun
All pictures by the talented https://www.lucydevereux.co.uk/