Sheffield student journalists recognised for work highlighting challenges faced by those with learning disabilities

Two masters students from the University of Sheffield have received awards in recognition of their work which highlights challenges faced by people with learning disabilities.

By Alana Roberts
Tuesday, 11 June, 2019, 15:48
Sheffield University Journalism student Laura Parnaby who was placed third in the Mencap Student Journalism Awards

The Mencap Student Journalism Awards, run by learning disability charity Mencap, aims to encourage discussion and raise awareness of issues surrounding learning disabilities.

Award winning Sheffield Uni journalism student Hannnah Makepeace

Each year they invite aspiring journalists to write about such issues in hopes of allowing those with a learning disability to have a greater voice in the media.

This year’s top submissions were announced on May 28, with Hannah Makepeace and Laura Parnaby, both students at the University of Sheffield, and Peter Gillibrand, a student at the University of Cardiff, completing the top three.

Hannah, who is studying an MA Broadcast Journalism degree, took first place for her news feature which focused on the day-to-day life of teenager Osian Wilson.

She said: “Osian is an amazing young guy and gives so much of his time to look after the Peak District, which in turn, has become a way of coping with the challenges his Autism brings.

“This will hopefully raise more awareness around the daily obstacles facing young people with Autism like Osian. I hope his story among the others chosen, can inspire people in some way!

“As a trainee journalist about to leave university, trying to find my way in the working world, it really means so much to have this level of recognition. It's a way of giving me confidence that I'm on the right track and that's so important to me.”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Laura is studying an MA Journalism degree and won third place with her piece about 15-year-old William Turton with autism which can creates barriers to learning meaning some schools have been unable to meet his needs.

He is determined to be the next national champion for speed Rubik’s cubing.

She said: “People with learning disabilities can sometimes see things in a different way to a neuro-typical person, and have incredible talents because of this - like William who is autistic and brilliant at speed-cubing alongside an array of other skills.

“However, people with learning disabilities can also face struggles that neuro-typical people would not even consider. It is the responsibility of the press to highlight these struggles to raise awareness, and celebrate their achievements too.

“William's story is inspiring because even though he went through two schools who could not meet his needs he is finding a unique space to develop social skills through his own hard work and talent.”

Lynn Dixon, the University of Sheffield MA Broadcast Journalism course leader, said: “I’m so happy that both the girls have been recognised for the work they’ve done on stories like this and am so proud of them both.

“It just shows the importance of telling those stories that might otherwise have not been heard. Good storytelling is at the heart of all the work we do on the course.”

The winners were chosen by Mencap chief executive, Jan Tregelles, BBC Health Editor Hugh Pym, Ted Young, Editor of Metro, Eve Pollard, Honorary President of Women in Journalism and former editor of The Sunday People and The Sunday Express and communications assistant Dean Meuleman, who is also a spokesperson for Mencap.