How to be a citizen

In their book, part story and part guide, self-advocate Wendy Perez and activist Simon Duffy set out the building blocks to being a citizen. Each chapter in this book by and for people with learning disabilities offers ideas, red flags and a story from Perez’ life. Below is an edited extract.

My name is Wendy. I am a person with a learning difficulty and I live my life to the fullest, writes Wendy Perez.

I was always told that I would not be able to do anything; but I got tired of being told that. I proved people wrong.

Cover: Everyday Citizenship

Everyday Citizenship: Seven Keys to a Life Well Lived

Wendy Perez and Simon Duffy
Illustrations: Ester Ortega

Red Press, 2024, £12.99

Simon Duffy’s book Keys to Citizenship gave people who run social care services lots of ideas about how to do things differently.

Since this was published in 2003, a lively global community has developed. Keys to Citizenship is used in lots of different ways to make people’s lives better.

This inspired me to write this book with Simon, to give everyone ideas about citizenship, not just service providers.

I make choices about my life that are right for me. I have my own flat and my own company. I help people with learning disabilities have more control over their lives.

I am confident and independent. I have travelled around the world on my own. I know when I am taking risks and I take responsibility for them.

I try to change people’s attitudes by doing this and by showing them that they can do it too. I wrote the stories in this book to show people how to start holding the keys to their own lives with the right support.

Follow your dream, then people will believe in you and help you. No dream is too small or too big. See what you can achieve, and don’t ever stop!

This book is full of practical wisdom and insight to help you live a life of meaning. It asks you the right questions to help you find your own answers, writes Simon Duffy.

But it’s only the beginning: the real journey to citizenship lies ahead. Let’s change the world by each becoming the best citizen we can be.

Everyone is a citizen and deserves a life well lived. The seven keys show you how to achieve that.

Yet sometimes there are barriers to citizenship:

  • Unfair laws that don’t give us the rights we need
  • Prejudices that stop people seeing each other for who they really are
  • Not having the power we need.

Citizen Network is a global community to support a world where everyone matters, inspired by the seven keys. You can join it for free.

At, you can find information to help you, and find member organisations near you. A community within the network ( is using the seven keys in interesting ways.

Citizenship is important because it means being treated with respect and dignity. Citizens are both equal and different.


The seven keys

Everyone is a citizen. It doesn’t matter what body or gifts you’re born with – everyone can have a life well lived. Everyday citizenship is a life with:

1. Meaning Enjoy life and make a difference

2. Freedom Take charge of your own life

3. Money Get the money you need to live

4. Help Get good help from other people

5. Home Find a place where you belong

6. Community Take part in the life of your community

7. Love Enjoy friendship, love and family