Lynne Evans was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the University in recognition of her contribution to promoting the rights and opportunities of people with learning disabilities in Rhondda Cynon Taff and across South Wales.
"I believe that education is the key to people being able to work together successfully, regardless of their abilities. When I was a teenager, there weren’t as many job opportunities for people with learning disabilities and I struggled at first to find a vocation where I could really make a difference.
"After volunteering with People First, a self-advocacy organisation, I discovered so many opportunities to speak up and campaign for the rights of people with learning difficulties. As a service user, I had experienced how being supported in my decisions and hopes for the future gave me a tremendous sense of empowerment and determination, which I wanted to instil in others.
"Being involved in setting up the Rhondda Cynon Taff branch of People First was the proudest time of my life. The organisation has done so much for me, and I am able to give something back to society by helping to empower future generations.
My collaborative work with the University – contributing to research projects and mentoring students during work placements in healthcare settings – continues to promote the importance of listening to people with learning disabilities.
"Their knowledge and expertise must be appreciated and valued. By ensuring they are involved and consulted in every aspect of their well being, we can help them make informed choices about their own lives. I would encourage today’s graduates, whichever career path they take, to take time to listen to the individual and get to know them. See the person, not the disability."