Ceridwen Hughes, a photographer from North Wales, wants the world to view disabilities differently.
In an effort to change people’s perspectives, she created a photo project called “We Can…” that focuses on what people with disabilities can do, rather than what they cannot.
“People make assumptions based on the way people look and act and do not always see the person behind the condition,” Hughes told The Huffington Post.
The photographer visited Coleg Cambria, a school in Northop, North Wales, that has a program teaching independent living skills to people with disabilities. She spoke to students while taking their portraits.
“Just because a person has a disability does not mean that they do not have dreams and hopes for the future,” Hughes said. “Many people with disabilities want to work and be valuable members of the community, and often they just need that opportunity.”
Hughes’ striking photos are accompanied by honest interviews with her subjects about what they wish other people understood about their condition. The images highlight the unique abilities of those with disabilities; in the United States, that’s approximately one in five people.
“We wanted to make people think and realize that disability has benefits,” she said. “I want to encourage people to look beyond the disability and see the opportunities that being different brings.”
Check out Hughes’ photos and get to know her subjects below:
“I would love a job in administration,” Kate, a 36-year-old with Down syndrome, told Hughes. “My favorite course is office and media because in that lesson you do many different things and I like computers. I love the fact you can listen to music while you type because it helps me clear my mind out. If I had to describe myself I would say I was smart, friendly, caring, kind and very sociable. In other people I look for someone to have a good personality.”
Paige is a 19-year-old on the autistic spectrum with ADHD and vasovagal syncope, which causes fainting. She told Hughes she would like a job that allows her to use her creativity and enjoys writing stories.
“Having a disability makes you unique, it makes you different from other people. It sets you apart,” she told the photographer. “It gives you a hidden edge that you don’t know you have until you discover it. In a way, it can help you as well as hinder you at times. I have met some people who use their disability to help them and it can be amazing to see how it goes. My disability makes me think somewhat differently from others. I think at a different pace.”
“I would love to work on trains one day,” Daniel, a 22-year-old with moderate learning difficulties, told Hughes. “Outside college I like going on the trains with my grandad. We go to Seven Valley in the West Midlands and I am a member there. I love trains. I drove one once and we made breakfast on it.”
Mark, a 20-year-old with Down syndrome, said he likes music and creating YouTube channels.
“I love to write songs and stories and sometimes I do YouTube," he said to Hughes. "I am making my own gaming channel, holiday channel and doing blogs. I love to travel and I once went to Greece for my brother’s wedding. I was his best man. Everything makes me happy, especially writing songs.”
“I would love a job working with animals,” Olivia, a 19-year-old who has emotional and social support needs, told Hughes. “Not enough people care about the animals. I just feel like I was put on earth to look out for them. Since a young age I always had this really strong bond with animals. A lot more than I have had with any person. I just feel like helping them in any way I can. That is why I want to become a vet so I can help the ones in need.”
Neisha, a 19-year-old who has cerebral palsy, hasn't decided on a career route yet. But she’s not letting her disability get in her way.
“I don’t let my disability stop me doing things,” she told the photographer. “To people who criticize me, I would say that even though I have a disability it doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with me. I would still go to schools, even though they are special-needs schools, I can still do the work and interact with people. I am good at swimming and basketball and I swim quite a lot.”
“I am competing in the Special Olympics,” said Peter, a 24-year-old who has moderate learning difficulties. “I love horses because they can sense if you are down or when you are happy. In Sheffield there are Special Olympics for people with learning disabilities and I am taking part in equestrian [competition]. I think that people with disabilities should have a chance of trying different things, even if it is ILS to mainstream. It is important because people with disabilities are still human, like everyone else.”
“I dream of being a farmer,” Scott, a 20-year-old who has moderate learning difficulties, told the photographer. “Sometimes people make remarks that I can’t do things and this makes you feel like you can’t do it but then I look back and realize that I can do things. I may learn a bit slower but I can still do what you can do. My dream is to become a farmer. This has been my dream since the age of 10 and so if I don’t achieve it I will be really sad. I can’t do it alone. I will need a bit of help to get started but everyone needs help in the start.”