'Once people got to know me, they discovered I had a voice'

Aaron Hume, 20, has spent years fighting for disability rights.

West Lothian college student fighting for people with additional needs in Scotland
Aaron Hume is fighting for better opportunities.

A college student who endured years of bullying over his disabilities is fighting for young people with additional needs to have better opportunities in Scotland.

Aaron Hume, 20, is multi-disabled with cerebral palsy, autism and visual and oral impairments and has dedicated his life to making the voices of the community heard.

His latest work is with #ThisIsME22, a campaign designed to increase public understanding and awareness around the inequalities experienced by people with learning disabilities in Scotland.

People with learning disabilities continue to experience stigma and discrimination across all areas of life, including lower life expectancy, poorer health care, limited employment and educational opportunities and higher rates of hate crime and bullying.

Aaron said: “It’s all about improving people’s quality of life, making sure me and you are no different and that we have the same chances.

“We met with government officials to give our views and have worked on video campaigns for teachers and staff across schools to help them include people with additional needs. It has been amazing. I love a bit of the chat and working the room.”

He described his time at school as a “rollercoaster” of highs and lows. He was even targeted by classmates due to his disability.

“I was the kid with the blue helmet,” he said. “I have plagiocephaly, which means I have a soft skull, so I had to wear it as I fell a lot. I was bullied for around two to three years for that. It was really tough.”

But the tide began to turn at the age of 14, when Aaron was nominated as young ambassador for inclusion at the student council. He also landed a place in the Larder Cook School, with help from his “awesome” deputy head teacher.

“It was a slow start for sure, but people began to get to know me more. They realised that I wasn’t just a shy or timid kid. I actually had a voice.”

He added: “It had its moments – but high school played a big part in who I am today.”

Since then, Aaron already has had several achievements under his belt. He has thrown himself into extracurricular programmes at West Lothian College, becoming the executive officer of the student’s association, a board member of Values Into Action Scotland and even won a commendation award at the College Development Networks Awards ceremony.

He co-authored a report about online access for people with learning disabilities during the pandemic and has also helped produce the Human Rights Towns app with Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities.

He said: “Many people with additional needs don’t know about their rights and this app helps them determine whether they are being discriminated against. You can click on a case study and it tells you about the right and wrong situation. 

“For example, not every shop has a disabled changing room. That is so wrong.

“I’m most proud of the work I’ve done in the last year. It’s been really fun.”

Aaron hopes that his work helps facilitate change for people of all abilities and hopes to inspire others to get involved in the project.

He said: “My goal is to keep going and building on what I have achieved, step by step. I am hoping to get a job in health and social care in the future after I complete my studies.

“Generally, I would like to see a Scotland where everyone can think outside the box more and people with additional needs can make meaningful contributions. I just want everyone to be able to come together for a more positive future.”