Sometimes, people don’t want to sit next to me on the bus. Or they give me a funny look. I always notice.
I never do that to people, it’s hurtful. Most of the time I feel a negative attitude, rather than hear actual words. It’s actually quite nasty. This is an example of prejudice.
People from all backgrounds can experience prejudice, but what I don’t like is prejudice against people with a learning disability.
People who have a learning disability didn’t ask to be disabled. They have to manage with it day by day and they don’t need a negative attitude.
People have treated me differently before, just because I have a learning disability. Some people talk down to me, or change their voice. I do notice that. I think they are trying to find the right way, but people should treat me as me, really.
Sometimes, if I speak my mind or am assertive, people can be so patronising. Someone once told me to go to my room. They told me off as if I were 10 years old. I was 40 at the time!
All of these things are prejudice. The people who meet me on the bus don’t know me, they are just judging what they can see. They don’t know what I am capable of, even if my mobility issue (which affects my co-ordination) means I can be thrown across the bus if I don’t hold on to the bars or sit down!
With the right support, people with a learning disability can do the same things, and have the same experiences, as anyone else. Can people with a learning disability go out, get a job, be in a relationship, have sex? Yes! If they know what they are doing, are safe, are able, and want to, then why not?
We all have different levels of doing things and should be loved for ourselves, not for how others think we should be. People with a learning disability should be treated like anyone else! Be understanding, but don’t treat them like they’re 10. Treat them as an adult. Listen. Treat them like anyone else - with dignity, not violently. Like the motto says “treat others as you wish to be treated yourself”. Respectfully.
Attitudes have to change; people don’t need bad feeling because they are different. I think a positive attitude is needed from cradle to the grave, from kid to adult, from World War 2 to the Rio Olympics. We need progress.
Just like everyone else, I have hopes and dreams for the future. For me, I want to have enough money to survive, to buy things for my flat. To be with my family more, to get fitter and I hope people will respect me.
One day, I hope that people with a learning disability will get more, better quality jobs. Things like building work, or in big shops. Not fire fighting though, that would be tough. I hope that people with a learning disability will be seen more – in films, on the TV, in documentaries. It would help the public get used to learning disability, and maybe change attitudes. I don’t want people with a learning disability to be singled out, I just want them to be included.
If I could give a piece of advice to someone who has never met a person with a learning disability before, I would say, please just think before you have a prejudice. Do think how the person might manage their life and that they try hard. Remember they are people like you and me. They are flesh and blood. They might have different health needs, different support needs, they might learn things differently, they might talk differently, but we’re all the same, deep down. Don’t see people with a learning disability as a threat. See them as a friend you haven’t met yet.
Got questions about learning disability? Who better to ask than someone who has a learning disability!
We got Aeren to answer some questions. Take a look at the chat to hear her thoughts and experience of having a learning disability...