Challenging the lazy stereotypes faced by learning-disabled people

Saba Salman - photo by Rob GouldSaba Salman - photo by Rob Gould
Saba Salman - photo by Rob Gould

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A new book sets out to challenge the lazy stereotypes made about learning-disabled people.

Made Possible: Stories Of Success By People With Learning Disabilities – In Their Own Words has been written by Saba Salman who grew up in Worthing.

It was inspired by her sister Raana, who was a student at Angmering School.

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Published by Unbound at £9.99, Made Possible is available in book shops and also online at Waterstones, Foyles, Blackwells, Hive and Amazon.

Raana  - photo by Rob GouldRaana  - photo by Rob Gould
Raana - photo by Rob Gould

Available from Amazon at, aged 48, who went to Worthing High School and Worthing College and now lives in Oxted, Surrey, said: “My sister Raana, who inspired the book and now lives in Ringwood, Hampshire, used to go to Angmering School.

“She loved going to the brilliant Adur Special Needs Project when she was younger. It’s a fantastic scheme for kids aged five to 15 who have special educational needs and Raana loved it so much she did some voluntary work there for a couple of years after she left.

“Every summer, Raana still takes part in the Worthing Carnival where she joins a float with local charity Superstar Arts. The creative arts charity is an absolutely inspirational organisation that reinforces what learning disabled people can do, instead of the more usual focus on what they can’t.

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“I had the idea for the book because I knew that, growing up, my sister Raana was never asked that question that most kids get asked: ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ I know that people don’t associate ambition or success with people like my sister – although success is a crucial part of being human – and I wanted to shift that perception.

“Made Possible challenges lazy stereotypes about learning disabled people and will appeal to anyone who cares about their fellow human beings – it’s essentially a book about what it means to be human. It’s also a great read if you’re interested in people’s life stories, and especially if you’re keen on theatre, film, music, art, campaigning and politics – because these are the areas that the book’s essayists excel in. The book is also a joyous celebration of what people can do and includes fantastic stories of determination, resilience and success. It’s also a really uplifting, positive and inspirational book, so very much a book for our current times.”

Saba added: “I wanted to share Raana’s achievements and her personality and shatter the stereotypes about learning disability that mean people like my sister are pitied, patronised or simply overlooked.

“As a journalist who’s written about disability for a while, I also had a nagging doubt that my articles didn’t really give people’s stories room to breathe. I felt I often cut short people’s stories thanks to word counts and deadlines.

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“I also knew I was writing about people, with my own filter or lens, instead of encouraging their stories to be heard directly. Made Possible brings people’s direct voices to readers. Anyone interested in people, in their fellow human beings, will enjoy this book.

“I absolutely loved working on Made Possible because it meant revisiting my sister’s story and looking at what she’s achieved. There was a time that I really worried about her future and thought she’d never live independently. But today, Raana lives in a place she loves (in supported living in Hampshire) and does things she enjoys (she does all sorts of creative activities and bakes the most delicious bread and cakes).

“Working with the essayists meant collaborating with people whose stories aren’t listened to, and I really enjoyed this process. Everyone involved in Made Possible had an incredible story to tell and just needed a bit of help getting it down. Some of my essayists dictated their life story, others wrote bits of it or sent me clippings or material to include, and then we worked closely together for almost two years to shape the book.

“Made Possible is a one-off but I would love to see other versions of it overseas, as well as spin-off articles and debates. I want it to spark conversations and change minds; I definitely see it as the starting point of something bigger.”

This is Saba’s first book.

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“I loved writing as a child and was particularly encouraged by two of my English teachers at Worthing High School. I was also very inquisitive, so journalism was an obvious career choice. My first byline was in the Worthing College student magazine almost 30 years ago!

“The college didn’t have a magazine, so I started one with a couple of friends and went around Worthing town centre encouraging local businesses to advertise so we could cover the printing costs. I think we ran for two issues – a case of quality, not quantity.

“My parents live in Worthing; my father, a retired surgeon, was a breast cancer consultant at Worthing Hospital and my mother used to teach adult education classes in Indian cookery.”

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