Aodhàn and Luca
Aodhàn and Luca are both three years old and attend Mencap’s specialist nursery in Belfast. Their key worker, Paul, says: “This is Luca’s second year, and in the first year he was very quiet and had no verbal skills. Aodhàn was also very introverted, shy and did not say much, but now they have the confidence to go and play together, communicate and help each other. Their friendship has helped their confidence.”
Sheela and Miriam
Sheela, left, made friends with Miriam through Me Time, a Mencap service supporting people with a learning disability to make social connections. “When you’re down in the dumps you need someone to cheer you up. If you’ve got friends, you look forward to the day. It gives you a reason to go out and enjoy yourself.”
Bartek and Jessica
Bartek was befriended by people who exploited him for five years – taking money from him, staying in his home without permission, and even stealing his phone and food from his fridge. With support, he has found more fulfilling friendships, and met his girlfriend Jessica at a Mencap-run social group. “They started calling me names, taking advantage of me. There were five or six of them. I felt quite intimidated, and really anxious and agitated and frustrated. I had bad friends, but that’s long gone.”
Ellen and Sterre
Ellen has been friends with Sterre, who communicates primarily through a form of sign language called Signalong, for 10 years. She says: “I loved Sterre from the beginning. I knew straight away that she couldn’t really talk. I did a lot of sign language when I was younger just for fun, but now I sign all the time. I knew quite a few signs before, but I learned a lot more through Sterre.”
Jyoti and Vitesh
Jyoti met Vitesh at a social group in Leicester run by Mencap. “Sometimes I’d like to meet more people. Sometimes I do get lonely. Vitesh and I became friends, and we do things together like talking and sports. We enjoy the company. I like his personality, he makes everyone laugh, he’s a good person to talk to. When he’s upset I’m there for him, and when I’m upset he’s always there for me.”
Ann and Wendy
Thirty years ago, Wendy, left, and Ann shared a corridor in a 30-bed care home. Today, in their seventies, they have their own home in the Sussex countryside, with 24-hour support. “We’ve known each other a long time, a very, very long time. We’ve lived together for a long time, years. We like needlework, drawing, colouring, knitting. And Countdown, and the programmes with the babies.”
Margaret and George
Margaret and George met at Buddy’s Café, a community project near their homes in Worthing. They’re just about to celebrate a year as a couple. Margaret says: “I want to go out and live independently, but trying to get help is a nightmare, and just trying to find things that I can do to meet new people is difficult. George has boosted up my confidence in myself.”
Denise and Angela
Angela, left, and Denise met through a social club run by Mencap. Angela says she often finds it hard to meet new people. “I used to work at a school. I enjoyed it really much, but all my friends went away and I found it hard to keep in touch with them. I found it hard when I didn’t have friends. I didn’t have a chance to talk to anyone.”
Marius and Moosa
Marius and Moosa, both 19, are in their final year at a special school in east London. They both need a high level of support, and communicate mostly non-verbally. They’ve just finished Mencap’s Young Ambassadors scheme, working on campaigning projects of their choosing. Hannah, who works with them, says: “Recently we’ve been doing awareness-raising work – what they’d like people to know about them and their support needs, their hopes, dreams and aspirations.”
Ollie and Bryony
Ollie and Bryony got engaged to be married in May. They both have Down’s syndrome, and live together in a supported house in West Sussex. “I told Ollie we must do a lot of dating first, and then we’ll think of getting married in about three years. We decided to be together, and that’s our choice. We fell in love.”
About the photographer
Richard Bailey has been a freelance photographer for nearly twenty years.
His images have featured in many photography books and campaigns, he has exhibited widely and won numerous awards, but his real passion is Shifting Perspectives, which he has been curating for the last ten years.
Shifting Perspectives is an internationally touring photographic exhibition, which is concerned with all aspects of Down’s syndrome.
His personal projects include Darwin’s pigeons and work around the theme of memory and loss.
He lives in London with his wife and three children.