International Day of Families aims to increase knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes that affect families. This year’s theme is about “families and inclusive societies” and how society can give equal opportunities to all families, so this year I would like to make some suggestions on how we can make society more inclusive of people with learning disabilities and their relatives.
Suggestion 1: Raise Awareness
If we educate ourselves about learning disabilities, related symptoms and reasonable adjustments we can make society more accessible for people with learning disabilities and put less pressure on families to ensure their disabled relative is accessing the services they need.
Only 28% of people in the UK were able to recognise signs that someone might have a mild learning disability, according to a UK study by the learning disability charity Mencap. This affects people with learning disabilities because if you don’t know what it is, you can’t adapt your communication style to meet the person’s needs, which is largely why Mencap have created the ‘Treat Me Well’ campaign in a big to improve medical services for people with learning disabilities and educate healthcare providers.
Suggestion 2: Change Attitudes
With the number of reported disability hate crimes rising, we need to promote more positive attitudes towards people with learning disabilities and their families. Many parents with disabled children restrict their activities and avoid public places because of the abuse they receive and for fear of being blamed if their child’s behaviour is perceived as disruptive.
We can challenge disability discrimination by giving people with learning disabilities and their families more opportunities to openly discuss their experiences and interact with non-disabled people, as increased contact can help remove misconceptions about disability and reduce prejudice.
Suggestion 3: Make spaces more accessible
Sarah Brisdion is a mother of twins, including her seven-year-old son Hadley, who has cerebral palsy. Frustrated with the fact she has had to lie him on toilet floors or put him in a diaper because there are very few suitable changing facilities for people learning and physical disabilities, as well as older people in the UK – she spent 6 hours sitting on a toilet in a busy shopping street protesting the lack of accessibility for people like her son.
Public spaces should be designed with an inclusive and human-centric approach because we may exclude large portions of society by not accounting for the many considerations families, carers and disabled people must make just to enjoy a family outing.
Suggestion 4: Improve Employment Opportunities
Only 20% of adults with learning disabilities are in work, but 65% of them would like to be in work. Additionally almost a third of carers (30.2% according to a government report) are not in paid employment due to their caring responsibilities. To provide more equal opportunities to families with learning disabilities who are more likely to live in poverty or be materially deprived, we need to make workplaces more inclusive because will not only improve the quality of life of people of learning disabilities and their families, but has benefits for employers too.
Zeinab Ali - Digital Marketing and Project Assistant for How Do I
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