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Ivan Cohen

The warm, friendly welcome Ivan Cohen received when he first visited the Edinburgh branch of ENABLE Scotland back in 2002 persuaded him put his initial apprehension aside.

His support worker had suggested he go along to see what the meeting involved and to perhaps meet new people.

The positive experience gave him the confidence in 2008 to attend the branch committee. “This was good,” says Ivan, “because there were things that I wanted to help with. And I just wanted to satisfy myself that everything in the branch was running properly!”

At the suggestion of a coordinator, Ivan became involved with the Advisory Committee of ENABLE (ACE) around four years ago.

“I thought it sounded really interesting and I wanted to be involved in it,” explained Ivan.

“I felt strange at first because I didn’t really know anyone but after a couple of meetings, I felt relaxed because everyone was really friendly there too and made me feel really welcome. It wasn’t long before I became vice-chair for a spell. It was hard work because I had to keep order and ensure that everyone had a chance to speak. It could be difficult but I managed and it was good fun!”

He was among the ACE group who addressed the Scottish Parliament to raise awareness of the most pressing issues affecting people who have learning disabilities.

Ivan considers this work to be extremely important. “I think people need to know what kind of support people with disabilities want – instead of just assuming they know what we want,” he explained.

“I think that people who have learning disabilities are getting a bit more respect because they are speaking up for themselves. But I still think that a lot of the time we are treated unfairly and there is still a lot of discrimination – so, we need to keep up the good work!”

Ivan is among the growing number of people who are backing ENABLE’s #bethechange campaign which aims to persuade society that the use of abusive, aggressive language is not to be tolerated.

“Some people at the ACE meetings say they feel like they are being bullied and harassed because of their disabilities, and that’s not nice. If someone tried to do that to me I’d just tell them it’s not on. But not everyone has the strength and confidence to challenge them,” said Ivan.

A modest man, who doesn’t shout about his many achievements, Ivan has been employed by NHS Edinburgh for 10 years. His tasks involve meeting and greeting guests and performing administrative duties two days a week.

He is a national ACE representative and chairperson of the local ACE group in Edinburgh.

Ivan is currently training to become a peer supporter – a role he considers extremely important – and is also involved in ENABLE’s co-training. He played a key role in Edinburgh ACE group’s video for health, safety and fire training, and has acted as co-trainer on several occasions with internal verifier Susan Strain during health, safety and fire training courses.

For a long spell, he sat on the Scottish Council of ENABLE. This, together with the challenges and opportunities he has experienced through his involvement with ACE and ENABLE Scotland as a whole, gives Ivan an enormous sense of pride. 

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