Big Issue Group and Mencap, the learning disability charity, are delighted to announce that this week’s Big Issue, out today (Monday 17 June), breaks new ground as the first magazine to be created by and wholly feature people with a learning disability.

To mark this year’s Learning Disability Week - an annual celebration of people with a learning disability, their families and carers - all articles in the issue focus on the real-life experiences and achievements of people with a learning disability.

Mencap’s Myth Busters are a group of people who are living life with a learning disability and campaigning for change. A group of them have worked with the magazine’s editorial team to write features, create designs and collaborate on how to make the Big Issue more accessible to those with a learning disability.

There are 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK, many of whom face barriers and inequalities in their daily lives. This year’s Learning Disability Week theme, ‘Do you see me?’, is to ensure people with a learning disability are seen, heard and valued in society – whether in the doctor’s surgery, at work, in the voting booth or simply within their local community .

The 15+ contributors include:

  • CBeebies’ presenter, George Webster, who has written a letter to his younger self about his learning disability;
  • Campaigner Nigel Smith, speaking about his experience fighting cancer and his desire for the healthcare sector to make improvements for people with a learning disability and autism ;
  • Medal winning Paralympian swimmer Jessica-Jane Applegate, discussing the barriers of having a hidden disability.

But according to new research carried out by Mencap, there is still much more work to do, especially in the public eye. A quarter of the general population (25%) say they have never seen people with a learning disability represented in the media, and those that have estimate they only see someone with a learning disability in the media once every seven to eight weeks. Almost half (48%) think that disabled people are not represented enough in the media.

The high cost of healthcare and additional support, combined with limits on opportunities for employment , also mean that people with a learning disability are more likely to fall into poverty.[1]

Health and wellbeing is one of five strategic pillars which the Big Issue Group has identified in order to achieve its mission of dismantling poverty. It’s hoped this collaboration with Mencap will help change perceptions – the first step being to feature more people with a learning disability in the media to help increase acceptance and reduce stigma.

Mencap’s Chief Executive, Jon Sparkes says:

“This powerful collaboration with the Big Issue puts people with a learning disability at the heart of every story. We are told that there is very little representation of people with a learning disability in the media, and we are trying to change that by working alongside one of the UK’s most recognised social enterprises to put their lives at the front and centre of every page.

“This publication of the Big Issue is a stark reminder of the incredible things that can be achieved despite many societal barriers.

“We hope this issue will inspire people to support our cause and learn more about the amazing people in their community and throughout the UK, who have a learning disability.”

Editor of the Big Issue, Paul McNamee says:

“People speak frequently about hearing from those who are often marginalised in society. At the Big Issue, we believe in giving them a platform to tell their stories. Our collaboration with Mencap is yet another way we’re doing this – breaking new ground by putting this week’s Big Issue in the hands of people with a learning disability.

“It’s not about paying lip-service, but rather wholeheartedly allowing a platform and offering assistance if needed. These fantastic contributors have created an incredible edition of our magazine. We strive constantly to challenge and offer opportunities to those who don’t always have them. This Big Issue is something to be incredibly proud about. As ever, you can pick it up from your local vendor or buy online via”

Mencap Myth Buster Aisha Edwards said; “I really enjoyed working on the magazine as I got to meet so many different people and people like me (who have a learning disability). My favourite part was sharing ideas. It’s so important to have a magazine like this that showcases our work, recognises us and includes us from the get go.”

The Big Issue have also redesigned the publication to make it more accessible to people with a learning disability. This will include a slight altered colour scheme, including accessible colour combinations for the greater contrast between text and background, to help readability. Larger-scale fonts have also been used as well as the inclusion of easy-read pullout boxes.

This week’s special edition Big Issue is now on sale. Find your local vendor to buy a copy, or subscribe online, at

How else can I get involved with Learning Disability Week?

  1. Read and learn: find out more at Mencap, including the stories of Myth Busters.
  2. Volunteer : There are loads of ways you can get involved as a volunteer and make a huge difference in the life of someone with a learning disability.
  3. Campaign: make a stand on issues ensuring people with a learning disability have equal rights and do not face discrimination . Find out more about Mencap’s campaigns here.
  4. Donate to charities: Show your support to a learning disability charity - you can donate here.





For further information or to arrange an interview with a Mencap spokesperson or case study , please contact Mencap’s media team on: or 02076965414 (including out of hours).        

Big Issue Group
For more information, please contact James Barker, Senior Press Officer at the Big Issue Group, at or 07564 328307.

Notes to editors:

About Mencap:  

There are approximately 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK. Mencap works to support people with a learning disability, their families and carers by fighting to change laws, improve services and access to education , employment and leisure facilities. Mencap supports thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want:

For advice and information about learning disability and Mencap services in your area, contact Mencap’s Freephone Learning Disability Helpline on 0808 808 1111 (10am-3pm, Monday-Friday) or email

What is a learning disability?      

  • A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability which means that people might need support with everyday tasks – for example shopping and cooking, or travelling to new places – which affects someone for their whole life;
  • Learning disability is NOT a mental illness or a learning difficulty, such as dyslexia . Very often the term ‘learning difficulty’ is wrongly used interchangeably with ‘learning disability’;
  • People with a learning disability can take longer to learn new things and may need support to develop new skills, understand difficult information and engage with other people. The level of support someone needs is different with every individual. For example, someone with a severe learning disability might need much more support with daily tasks than someone with a mild learning disability.

About the Big Issue Group:

  • Big Issue Group is a social enterprise whose mission is to create innovative solutions through enterprise that unlock social and economic opportunities for people trapped in poverty. The Big Issue Group is deliberately constructed to create the greatest level of positive impact for individuals, organisations and communities through alignment to a shared mission. Big Issue Group consists of a number of different entities:
    • Big Issue Media: includes the Big Issue magazine, an award-winning weekly entertainment and current affairs magazine, and, which provides breaking and in-depth news reporting as well as relevant culture, lifestyle and opinion content. Vendors who sell the Big Issue, buy the magazines for £2 and sell them to the public for £4, keeping the difference. The magazine provides a means to earn a legitimate income from vendors. You can also purchase physical and digital subscriptions to the magazine via or our app. 
    • Big Issue Changing Lives Community Interest Company: Every year Big Issue Changing Lives CIC works with nearly 4,000 people whose lives are affected by poverty. This vital work is delivered by our frontline teams across the UK. Helping vendors to maximise their income through on pitch support, sales and financial training. And supporting individuals to access basic services such as housing, health and wellbeing, training, become work ready and ultimately move into sustainable employment.
    • Big Issue Invest: our social investment arm, founded in 2005, offers loans and investment from £20,000 to £4 million to social enterprises and charities across the UK. Since 2005, BII has invested in over 550 organisations. The capital raised by BII is from private sources and not from sales of the magazine.
    • Big Issue Shop offers a platform for social trading that will make social and ethical shopping a truly accessible option for consumers, giving people the opportunity to use their spending power to make a positive difference to the world we live in. For more information go to:
    • Big Issue Recruit: is a new person centric recruitment services to support people who face barriers to work into sustainable employment. For more information visit
    • Lord John Bird’s parliamentary office: Lord Bird, founder of the Big Issue and Editor in Chief, is an independent cross bench peer, appointed in 2015. For more information visit:
    • Big Exchange: Big Exchange was co-founded by Big Issue Group and enables the public to choose financial investments that are creating positive solutions to the world’s biggest challenges. Invest through ISAs, JISA’s and GIAs: