New research shows that 48% of people in the north are uncomfortable speaking to someone with a leaning disability

Mencap Northern Ireland has conducted new research which shows that more than half the population in the north don’t know what a learning disability is and 48% of people are uncomfortable speaking to someone with a learning disability.

Friday, 26th November 2021, 4:23 pm
George is a presenter on CBeebies

The research was carried out as part of Mencap’s 75th anniversary and it aims to show the negative impact that misunderstanding learning disabilities can have on society. The study showed that more than half the population (55%) were unable to distinguish between a learning disability, a learning difficulty such as dyslexia, and mental illness.

Mencap wants to show that representation is important and says that seeing more people in the media with learning disabilities would make people more comfortable talking to someone with a learning disability.

George Webster is a Mencap ambassador and he is the first CBeebies presenter who has Down’s Syndrome.

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He said, “When I was younger, there wasn’t anyone with a learning disability or Down’s Syndrome on the TV. It is so important though - if people saw more people with a learning disability in the media, they would better understand what a learning disability is and they would be less scared to approach someone and talk to them. Then they could get to know them better. This would also mean people treat us better - it could improve things massively.

“I’ve been over the moon with all the positive feedback since I joined CBeebies and I’ve been feeling super proud, especially when people say it means a lot to them. I think it will help people understand more about Down’s Syndrome and learning disability as they can learn more about me and see that we’re not that different.

“I just want everyone to treat people with a learning disability fairly and to not judge us - talk to us and get to know us before assuming anything.”

Edel Harris, Chief Executive of Mencap, said, “For 75 years, Mencap has campaigned with people with a learning disability, their families and carers to create positive change. We have seen huge progress but we know there is still a long way to go, and it’s clear from these new statistics just how many misconceptions still exist. People with a learning disability can and should be active participants in society, yet many people don’t know what a learning disability is or have little contact with people with a learning disability. We are encouraging people to educate themselves about learning disability through our ‘Talk To Me’ resources online.

“We want the UK to be the best place in the world for people with a learning disability to live happy and healthy lives. Mencap began in a time when the world was completely different for people with a learning disability and we have seen a lot of progress in society’s attitudes and behaviours since then – but we still need to see even bigger change.”

The study also showed that a huge number of people want to learn more about learning disabilities and be more inclusive in their day-to-day lives. Because of this, Mencap are launching it’s ‘Talk To Me’ campaign which proves online tools to help people better understand learning disabilities.

Saskia, who has a learning disability, said, “I think everyone should understand more about learning disability. For me, things have been so much better since I’ve become a football coach. It has helped people in my community get to know me, learn about what people with a learning disability are capable of and made me feel so much more confident in the rest of my life also.

“Everyone with a learning disability should be included and people should not worry about language – just be kind and use normal language. I just want to talk to people like anyone else and if you just talk to us and get to know us, you’ll see just how much we can do.”

For more information on the Talk To Me campaign and resources to help with understanding and inclusion of people with a learning disability visit mencap.org