Food for thought; ‘Learning Disability Week’

Did you know that this week is Learning Disability Awareness Week? Learning Disability Awareness week is a time to specifically shine a spot light on issues impacting on people with learning disabilities and their families, however it’s reach rarely breaks through the bubble of organisations that operate within the social care sector into the wider population.

At a time when significant attention is being given to social injustice, racism, diversity and equality  (and rightly so), we need to do more to understand how having a learning disability can add another dimension of prejudice that is all too often overlooked.

Do we consider how it feels to be BAME with a learning disability, Female with a learning disability, LGBTQ with a learning disability, or any other additional need with a learning disability? What preconceived ideas do we have regarding conditions that we may not understand or that we can’t identify with? Do we see the label before we see the person, or do we just see the label and go with our own prejudices that come with it?

How often do we consider a person’s abilities before we make a judgement about someone’s disability? Take a moment to pause and try to recall how you’ve felt or reacted to someone whose needs or struggle you may not understand… I’m not trying to draw comparisons with movements such as Black Lives Matter, however there are many similarities that impact on people with a learning disability.

How many of you have taken the time to get to know someone with a learning disability?

How many of you have colleagues that have a learning disability (a learning disability is not the same as a learning difficulty. A learning disability is a lifelong condition that impacts on a person’s intellect meaning that they are likely to take longer to learn)?

In every aspect of daily life, people with a learning disability are denied access and opportunities that so many of us take for granted. I have worked in the Social Care sector for over 20 years, I do not consider myself to be an expert as I continue to learn every day. Over the past 20 years I have seen little improvement in respect of opportunities for people with learning disabilities in mainstream life. There have been significant strides within the sector but this doesn’t necessarily extend to the broader community. As a collective community we need to do more to proactively advocate for some of the more vulnerable members of it.

As a starting point, let’s consider the disadvantages that people with a learning Disability may face; throughout the course of my adult life, I have been able to privately rent accommodation with relative ease. It has taken me three months to find accommodation for a young man with a learning disability, this gave me insight into the well-known phrase “No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish.” It was almost as if with every set back I was hearing the phrase ‘people with a learning disability need not apply.’

As Learning Disability Awareness Week draws to a close, why not make a commitment to personally advocate for people with a learning disability and take steps to make our communities truly inclusive for everyone.

Ash Omar – Enable Inclusive Support

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