Campaigning for deaf children at the Lib Dem conference 2009: day 2

BournemouthDay two of our Bournemouth Liberal Democrat party conference adventure started with a morning of meetings on the patio of a cliffside hotel in the beautiful morning sunshine. It sounded like perfection at first. Two hours later, we were stumbling off the patio, blinded by the sun and with a deep tan on the half of our face facing the sun.

But the meetings went well. We met Baroness Garden, who works on children and education in the House of Lords for the Lib Dems. I got asked lots of questions about childhood deafness which put me on my toes but was quite nice since it showed an active interest in deafness and a desire to find out more. She was aware of our work to get the law changed on acoustics which was positive. Our message is getting out there before we’ve even come to party conferences…

We also met with Annette Brooke who also asked lots of questions and made a few requests for further information. She raised a new issue – how we do make sure that deaf children who are home educated get the right support from their local authority? A good question and something we’ll be coming back to her on.

There were lot of other charities there all waiting to meet MPs too. At times, it felt a bit like a political form of speed dating with MPs moving between different tables to talk to different charities. All that was missing was a little bell ringing at the half hour mark.

Once that was done, the afternoon was spent stalking MPs and getting their views on our simulation of acoustics in the classroom. One MP said she thought it sounded like a baby listening to the world from the womb!

And then finally, we ended the day with an impressive fringe meeting hosted by Every Disabled Child Matters. This was the best fringe meeting I went to, primarily because it had two young disabled people interrogating two shadow Lib Dem Ministers – David Laws MP (who looks after education) and Steve Webb MP (who looks after benefits) – on what the Lib Dem manifesto will have for disabled children. The highlight for me was when one of the young people was asked if her teachers had low expectations of her. She replied that her teachers told her that she would only ever end up working in a fried chicken takeaway, and how this motivated her to prove her teacher wrong. Her advice to others was simple: don’t give up. She also suggested she did end up working in a fried chicken takeaway, she would get her revenge by spitting in the food! It was a very spunky and inspriring reply.

And that was it. Time for a late night train back to London to reflect on a good two days with the Lib Dems. Now the travelling circus moves to Brighton for the Labour party conference next Sunday…

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