As a pretty shy person, I do not usually volunteer for public speaking opportunities. But sometimes, the opportunity to discuss a subject I care about with a wider audience is too good to refuse. That is how I found myself giving an assembly to 800 people on disability rights during my last year at school, and why I recently volunteered to join the panel for a Question Time-style debate on disability issues run by Warwick University’s Politics Society.
This discussion was part of the Student Union’s Disability Awareness Week, an annual event held to highlight the issues faced by people with physical and learning disabilities, as well as those with mental illnesses—within higher education and beyond. While I was impressed by the sheer fact of its existence, as disability issues are so often ignored, I was disappointed by how few people seemed to know, or care, that it was happening. It was a stark contrast to the hype surrounding last term’s popular Gay Pride Week. The turnout of 24 students was markedly low—often the audience at Politics Society debates is upwards of 80.