Helen McDougall lives with a range of conditions, including ADHD and expressive receptive language disorder, which is a form of dyslexia.
The 52-year-old from Dunblane also carries a spinal injury from a horse-riding accident but nothing has stopped her passion for getting involved in community projects, including Stirling Council’s participatory budgeting project, Your Stirling: You Decide.
“My aim is to make sure that disabled does not mean disadvantaged and that when ideas are coming forward, disabled people are included and not excluded,” she explained.
“If things like new play equipment for a park is approved as an idea, play equipment should include something for a disabled child, not just for able-bodied children so it is more inclusive.”
For the past two months, Helen has been volunteering as one of 24 budget delegates who have worked with Stirling Council officers to verify the 770-plus ideas that were submitted to the Council as part of Your Stirling: You Decide.
A final list of 193 ideas have now been verified for the voting stage, and more than 3,100 votes have already been cast across the Council ward areas.
Voting closes on Sunday, 23 June, and the people behind these ideas hope to win their share of £700,000 of ring-fenced funding, split evenly across the seven electoral wards in Stirling, and Helen has been making sure the voice of the disabled community is heard throughout the process.
She said: “We’re having discussions about trying to get people to think differently, and if an idea does go forward then there is an aspect for disabled people in there.
“There have been discussions with people and some are already thinking inclusively. Some others have their ideas set but at least they’re willing to listen, which I find encouraging.
“Through the work of the Stirling Area Access Panel, we’re already involved in a lot of different things. This is an additional platform, but not our only platform.”
Driven to make a change for disabled people
Living with disabilities has imbued Helen with a sense of purpose, which is why she has taken such an active role in Your Stirling: You Decide.
She wants to make sure her voice and the voices of other people with conditions affecting their mobility can get involved in the work of the local community.
The former instructor for Riding for the Disabled said the Your Stirling: You Decide project has helped make that possible as she continues to battle against stigma and misconception.
“People think of ADHD as a disorder but I see it as a gift,” she explained. “It helps you think outside the box and also makes you great at multi-tasking.
“My belief is: inclusion, as much as possible. You look at people for what they can do, not what they can’t. It’s about perception and how people think. I want to enable people to reach their full potential.
“This experience has put a face to the Council and it has made it more human, more so than a name on a letter. It’s that willingness to engage with the delegates and have a conversation with us which makes the whole process more human.
“I’ve talked to the other budget delegates and while we all want to help our own communities, we all want to use our own experiences to help the ideas for other communities.
“That helps the rest of us form a better idea of what needs to get done.
“We’ve formed our own little community and we’re all helping each other. It’s a great bunch of people.”
Decisions up to the people of Stirling
The voting stage of Your Stirling: You Decide opened on Monday, 27 May and will close on 23 June. Over that course, it will be up to the public to have their say on the 193 ideas that have been submitted from across the Stirling community.
Helen added: “People are not realising this is additional money and is money that has been ring-fenced for this project. It’s not taking money from a normal budget, it’s especially just for this and there’s a specific criteria to meet.
“The Council is a big organisation and they can’t be everywhere at all times. They can’t know what’s happening in every corner of an area, but this is a chance for the residents to say ‘excuse me, this needs looked at.’”