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Celebrating International Day of People With a Disability

1 December 2016

For the International Day of People With a Disability (3 December) I'm sharing some of my experiences of meeting people from different countries and cultures around the world in 2016.

Harry Roche

In the last year I’ve had the privilege of meeting people with a learning disability from across the world as part of my work as an advocate for the group Inclusion International.  

Some of the places I’ve travelled to include Brussels in Belgium, Lisbon in Portugal and Orlando in the USA. I enjoyed visiting all of them, but my particular favourite was Orlando because it was interesting to hear what concerns people with a learning disability have had in an election year.

The conferences I went to were an opportunity for people to speak up about their experiences, share stories and tell each other that it’s not okay to accept prejudice. 

This year is the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The way that people with a learning disability around the world are treated in their countries shows that there is still a lot to do to make sure that disability rights are respected.

I met a lot of people this year from other countries, and while things are far from being perfect in the UK, I know that in some African countries that children with a learning disability do not receive an education at all. I think this is really shocking and it must change.

By talking to other people about my experiences at the Inclusion International conferences I hope that I can help inspire others to achieve all that they want to in life, and for them to know that they are a valued member of society too.

We might all live in very different countries, but I have learnt from speaking to people that what matters most is that people with a learning disability receive good healthcare, education and the right to work just like everyone else.

For people to live happy lives it’s so important that children have a good education in a mainstream school where teachers understand what a learning disability is. Teachers need to learn to adapt their teaching style to the needs of the people they are teaching so they are treated as individuals.

Learning disability has been hidden in society for too long, and this is why Mencap launched the Here I Am campaign – so that more people can find out about what a learning disability is and isn’t. If people listened more, then the world for people with a learning disability would improve.

It’s been great hearing the stories of people from around the world on social media, which is helping people to connect in ways they couldn’t do before, and I look forward to hearing more of them in the future too.

My hopes for 2017 are that the Here I Am campaign goes global so everyone is talking about it, and that we continue to fight the discrimination that so many people with a learning disability still face - because it has to end. 

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