There’s a tendency – even amongst the most well meaning of people – to infantilise those with learning disabilities, which often stems from a desire to care for them and to protect them from the potential cruelties of life. The problem with this apparent kindness is that it has the unfortunate effect of potentially reducing a person’s life to only those activities deemed ‘suitable’ or ‘safe’.
Whilst no one would want to throw a person with intellectual difficulties out into the world without a support network, we need to remember that they are entitled to have as full and varied a life as anyone else – and that includes having relationships and careers, the lot.
Huge strides have been made by people such as Madeline Stuart, the model with Down’s Syndrome whose success has proven that disability doesn’t preclude people from jobs that are perceived as being glamorous. And now Mencap hope to extend public awareness (and acceptance) with their new campaign, ‘Here I Am‘:
New research undertaken by Ipsos Mori and Mencap reveals a worrying amount of confusion around learning disabilities:
- 27% of people thought learning disability was a form of mental illness
- 27% of people thought learning disability does not last your whole life
- 30% of people saying they would feel comfortable sat next to someone with a learning disability in the cinema, or during a show or concert.
Mencap are hoping that their new Understand Me tool can help to break down this confusion and fear. When you click the link, you’re greeted by Aeren Fitzgerald, a 28-year-old woman with a learning disability, who will answer the questions that the public are usually too afraid to ask, such as ‘Can people with a learning disability have sex?’ (yes, apparently she really does get asked this).
Aeren herself says:
I’m very passionate about learning disability and about trying to make sure that everyone is treated the same, no one is treated differently because of their disability.
People with a learning disability are just like everyone else and should be treated just like anybody else. They just need more support than others. But lots of people still don’t realise this and there are always lots of questions that people are too afraid to ask. Things like ‘what is your love life like’ – silly questions, but one’s people have asked me.
It’s really important that more people know more about learning disability and I’m pleased that I’m helping more people understand learning disability with the Understand Me site.
The charity want to tackle negative attitudes by allowing people with a learning disability to be seen and heard across the media – please do take a moment to read and watch, it’s well worthwhile!