My name is Richard Lawrence and I'm 24. I work for Mencap as a spokesperson and research assistant. A big part of my role is speaking at conferences, but I recently played football against MPs. I live in Peckham with my mum and dad and I've worked for Mencap for about a year. I was at a day centre when I saw the job advertised, and I thought it would be interesting work.
I had tried to get jobs before, at lots of different places, but I think people didn't accept me because of my learning disability. People were ignorant. I did work experience at a music shop and was upset when I didn't get a job there. For the Mencap job I had two interviews – one of them with a panel of people with a learning disability.
A big part of my role is speaking at conferences about what it's like to have a learning disability. The first time I spoke I was nervous, but I got some good feedback and now it's my favourite part of my job. I feel better because giving presentations has helped me to share my feelings, which I didn't do before. As well as doing my Mencap job, I also work as a mystery shopper, doing different journeys on trains and reporting back on how the staff treat me. If people speak to me badly I write it down.
I scored a goal
At the recent Conservative party conference I played football for the Learning Disability Coalition against a side of Conservative MPs. I really enjoyed it – we won 4-2 and I scored a goal. Another reason I enjoyed it was because it was at the training ground of the team I support – Manchester United.
I've known my fiancé since school – we've been together for a year. She has autism and lives at home, but she is at my house all the time! We like to go to the West End, or over to friends' houses. We want to get married as soon as we can, and to have children one day. I would want them to have the best education they could and I would take care of them. I would want them to be happy.
In the future I hope to leave home and live independently, and give more presentations. I hope things will change so that people with a learning disability will get equal rights and better lives. Education is so important – people with a learning disability can do everything other people can do. They should be accepted as ordinary people.
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