Christine Burke, Senior Development Manager, Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities:
A recent report, ‘Fighting Back’, by the MS society unveils British public’s ignorance about disabled people. Too many people in the UK are narrow-minded when it comes to considering the lifestyle people with disabilities, such as MS, can lead.
The report highlights the results of A ComRes poll of more than 2,000 British adults commissioned for the report shows some pretty disturbing results. One in five (21%) people think disabled people need to accept they cannot have the same opportunities in life as non-disabled people and a quarter of Britons think disabled people exaggerate their disability.
One in five (21%) British adults surveyed also think disabled people need to accept they can’t have the same opportunities in life, with men (28%) more likely than women (15%) to hold this view. More than one in four (26%) Britons think bars and nightclubs are not places for people with wheelchairs, a belief more commonly found in men (31%) and 18-24 year olds (32%), compared to women (21%) and 45-54 year olds (22%). One in four (24%) Britons believe disabled people often exaggerate the extent of their physical limitations.
These startling results are in line with the Voice and Community Report about to be published by Lemos & Crane who we have been working in partnership with on the project. It seems that people with disabilities are still thought of as being ‘other’, not ‘like us’, they don’t deserve to go to the places that non-disabled people want to go to like night clubs and should accept a lesser quality of life. This goes against everything we work for and believe at the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities. Discrimination and prejudice about learning disabilities has been a battle for many years, however recent changes to legislation (such as Equalities Act 2010) are making it somewhat easier for people with learning disabilities to legally have the right to the same choices and quality of life that non-disabled people take for granted. However, the challenge still seems to be in getting these views to register with the public.
The Voice and the Community report has been researching the experiences of people with learning disabilities who have had encounters of hate crime because of their learning disability. The report will be published in the upcoming months and is part of a three year project to investigate the nature and incidents of hate crime people with learning disabilities face and to look for ways to combat this. It is shocking to hear some of stories that people have told about the abuse and targeted cruelty they have experienced because they were born with a learning disability, something they had no control over. Hopefully with more research into the causes of these out-dated and hurtful prejudices, there will come a time when people are not judged on what they can’t do and how they are different, but what they can do and what makes them unique.