The United Nations Convention on the Rights Rights are the things everyone should be allowed to do like have a say, or go to school. of Persons with Disabilities said that people with a learning disability A learning disability is to do with the way someone's brain works. It makes it harder for someone to learn, understand or do things. have a fundamental right to full and active participation and inclusion in society (United Nations, 2006).
Up until the 1970s many adults and children with a learning disability had to stay in large institutions.
Since then, large institutions have been closed and almost all adults and children with a learning disability live in the community A community is the people and places in an area. .
However, many still feel socially left out and face stigma and discrimination Discrimination is when someone is treated differently (usually in a bad way) because of things like their disability or their religion Religion is to do with the things you believe about the world. For example you may believe there is a god or something else. Examples of religions are Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism. . in their everyday lives (Scior & Werner, 2015).
People with a learning disability may face problems getting equal opportunities for healthcare, housing, education Education is when you learn things. When you fill in a form to get a job, education means you write where you went to school, college or university. , employment Employment means having a job. and social pursuits.
- children with special educational needs (SEN) are twice as likely to be bullied regularly than children with no SEN (IoE London, 2014)
- in 2017/18 only 6% of adults with a learning disability known to their local authority were in paid employment in England (NHS Digital, 2018), compared to 76% of people aged 16 - 64 in the general population (ONS, 2019).
Stigma and discrimination can become internalized in people with a learning disability resulting in ‘self-stigma’.
This is associated with higher levels of psychological distress and lower quality of life (Ali et al., 2015; Pelleboer-Gunnink et al., 2019).
The Disability Perception Gap
Scope identifies the difference in attitudes of non-disabled people and the reality of disabled people’s experiences as the ‘disability perception gap’ (Dixon et al., 2018).
It has been suggested that misconceptions about the capabilities of people with a learning disability may be widespread (Scior & Werner, 2015). Misconceptions and negative attitudes can be a barrier to people with a disability living the lives they want (Dixon et al., 2018).
For example, just under a third (32%) of respondents in the 2017 British Attitudes Survey A survey is when someone asks you to answer some questions. thought that disabled people are not as productive as non-disabled people. This belief may be a factor which contributes to the disparity in employment rates between people with a learning disability and the general population (Dixon et al., 2018).
Increasing positive attitudes
Interventions designed to challenge negative attitudes towards people with a learning disability often involve an element of education which attempts to increase knowledge of learning disability (Scior & Werner, 2015). Interventions which use educational approaches have shown some promising outcomes (Li et al., 2014; Seewooruttun & Scior, 2014).
Studies which increase contact (direct or indirect) with people with a learning disability show positive effects on attitudes (MacMillan et al., 2014; Seewooruttun & Scior, 2014; Scior & Werner, 2015). These approaches can include training delivered by people with a learning disability, tutoring programmes, experiential tasks, and indirect contact through film presentations delivered online and exposure to images that contradict stereotypes (Seewooruttun & Scior, 2014). However, studies have been limited by small sample sizes.
Studies which include both direct contact and education on learning disability have also shown positive outcomes, particularly with people who have had no prior contact with people with a learning disability (Lawson et al., 2017).
Self- advocacy Advocacy is when you get support to have your say. groups allow members to address stigmatised social identities and provides opportunities to engage with ideas about rights, empowerment and greater equality Equality is when everyone is treated fairly. (Clarke et al., 2015; Anderson & Bigby, 2017; Fenn & Scior, 2019).
Individuals can gain a variety of benefits from self-advocacy groups, including increased confidence, changes in social and self-identity, increased social connections and relationships Relationships are about the people in your life. You might have different types of relationships like friendships, family relationships, or a boyfriend or girlfriend. , mutual support, and increased opportunities for occupation and activities (Clarke et al., 2015; Fenn & Scior, 2019).