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60 Stories - Sadie Main

Sadie Main
November 16 is International Day for Tolerance. To mark the day, we introduce Sadie Main who, regrettable, has had to tolerate stigma, discrimination, ignorance, bullying and rejection. She says ENABLE gave her the confidence to stand up and speak out, while doing all she can to help others.

Sadie Main lives life to the full. She works part-time for a disability charity, is an active member of her local church and an undeniably talented artist.
Few would believe, given her cheerful disposition and positive attitude, that the 54-year- old has tackled every conceivable hurdle that life with a learning disability has put in her way.
Stigma, discrimination, ignorance, bullying and rejection - she has faced them all and come out fighting, secure in her belief that she deserves ‘an opportunity to do the things that other people do’ - something which she attributes to her involvement with Enable Scotland.
When she joined the organisation in her early 20s, Sadie recalls that she was at a particularly difficult stage in her life.
“I had left school, I wasn’t sure where I was going to live and I had been told that no one would give me a job, so I wasn’t feeling very hopeful for the future.
“I was good friends with a girl from school and I went to stay with her from time to time. Her mum,
Miss Melville, was involved with Enable. She could see that I was unhappy so she started taking me along to their open days to get me involved. I don’t think she knows this, but by doing that, she changed my life.”
Sadie’s articulate manner made a quick impression on the Enable community and when they sensed that she had the potential to represent people with learning disabilities, they invited her to sit on their advisory committee (ACE) and the Scottish Council, which advises the organisation on the work they do.
Lacking in self-esteem and confidence, Sadie was initially unsure of her capabilities, but as she began to make friends within Enable, she developed a new sense of self-worth.
“I used to find it difficult to trust people because of the way I’ve been treated in the past. People have thrown fireworks at my house and stones at my dog, they called me ‘smelly’ or ‘Miss Weird’ and did all sorts of awful things to me. You begin to feel frightened by people when you have to live with that, but when I started to go to the ACE meetings, there were so many people like me that for the first time in my life, I didn’t feel out of place.
“We all have different disabilities and other differences, but we work together as a team because we all want the same thing. Being a part of that has made me feel more confident and taught me how to speak up for what I believe in. I’ve realised now that I’m actually quite good at that!”
Sadie’s ability to express what matters to people who have learning disabilities is so good in fact, that when a colleague left Enable to take up a post with disability charity Values Into Action Scotland, she promptly offered her a paid job as an advisor to vulnerable adults and their carers.
“I help people to understand when they are in a vulnerable situation or at risk of harm. I also help their carers to find the most suitable way to care for them. The lady I work for says that I’m good at my job and my one with Enable because I know what it’s like to feel insecure or how stressful it can be when your care methods are wrong. She says that people feel they can trust me because I am speaking from experience.”
Gaining employment has also given Sadie a much-needed sense that she is ‘respected and valued’ after an unpleasant experience with a past job in a nursing home saw her become the victim of discrimination.
Despite being told by the manager that she could do artwork with the elderly patients as well as her kitchen duties, Sadie was never allowed to leave the kitchen and when she received her pay slip, she quickly noticed that it was less than had been agreed.
“I’m not good with numbers but my sister is an accountant and she said that he was paying me less than I should have got. When I asked him about it he said ‘you get less because you are disabled’.
“I knew that wasn’t right and I told the jobcentre because they had organised the placement for me. They made him pay back what he owed me, but after that he didn’t want me to work there anymore. That made me sad because all I have ever wanted is to be treated the same as everyone else.”
Through her experience of stigma and discrimination, Sadie has become increasingly passionate about demonstrating that people with learning disabilities should not be overlooked and that they too can possess skills and attributes which deserve recognition.
When a piece of her artwork was selected to be exhibited around the capitals of Europe for the Year of the Disabled, she readily admits that it was not only her ‘proudest achievement’ to date, but that she also hoped it would encourage people to look beyond a person’s disability.
“The point of the exhibitions was to demonstrate the capabilities of people who have learning disabilities. I’d like to believe that if someone looked at my picture in a gallery and thought that it was good, they would be surprised to learn that I had a disability. I hope that they would think about that and that it would make them less likely to judge a disabled person when they meet them face to face.”
Not just content with helping others with disabilities, Sadie’s caring nature has seen her extend that help to her local community as a respected member of her local church.
Each Tuesday and Friday, she works at the food bank and while she enjoys having the opportunity to ‘give something back’ she has also welcomed the development of many new friendships which have gone some way to restore her faith in the kindness of people.
“I have been treated so badly in the past that I began to expect it all the time, but now I have learned to trust again. When I do come across the odd unkind person, I deal with it better because I know I have the support of all my lovely friends.
“Everyone needs to feel accepted, whether they have a disability or not. All the good people at the church and Enable treat me in exactly the same way as they would treat anyone else. That is all I have ever wanted and now I am enjoying life as a very happy person.”

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