Throughout our lives we all imagine the same special first experiences; our first love, first job, first day at school or first time becoming a parent.
However someone with a learning disability may be faced with challenges in order to experience the same life changing firsts as everyone else. For example, parents with a learning disability are 50 times more likely to have their children taken into care, and just 7% of people with a learning disability are in paid employment, despite 65% wanting a job.
Learning Disability Week will aim to celebrate the people who overcome adversity, prejudice and ignorance to experience their incredible firsts.
Mencap’s chief executive Jan Tregelles said:
"Mencap believes in a world where people with a learning disability, their families and carers have the same opportunities throughout every stage of their lives – and the same life-changing events as everyone else.
This Learning Disability Week is all about giving people with a learning disability a platform to tell their story, and for people to realise that we all have the same hopes and dreams in life. But we don’t all have the same opportunities to fulfil them."
Each day of Learning Disability Week will be dedicated to a different first life experience.
All the stories Mencap receive will be displayed on our website and social media channels.
The aim is to create a library specifically for people with a learning disability to share their own stories, which may never have been heard before.
Mencap celebrity ambassador Ty Glaser, who has a younger sister with Down’s syndrome called Esmé, said:
I can remember the fear and nerves I felt before the opening night of the first professional play I took the lead in. Regardless of whether you have a learning disability or not we all go through the same feelings of terror and excitement when experiencing those memorable first times. However, people with a learning disability don’t often get to tell these stories and it is for this reason I am delighted to support Mencap’s Learning Disability Week, and will be encouraging my sister Esmé to share some of her stories too.
To get involved with Learning Disability Week Mencap are asking people with a learning disability to:
- share your extraordinary stories on Twitter, using the hashtag #LDWeek14
- post your terrific tales on our Facebook page
- write your own blog about your first-time experiences (just be sure to post a link to it so we can see)
- post a photo online that represents one of your firsts, and send us the link so we can admire it.
We have already received stories from people like Richard Lawrence, who has a learning disability and spoke about the challenges he overcame to experience his first love, Esther, who he met at their day centre and have been together for six years:
I don’t think enough people understand that people with a learning disability have relationships just like everyone else. Only through telling my story can people realise what a learning disability is. We are real people in this world, human beings with feelings like everyone else. I can’t wait for people to read my story and encourage others to do the same.
Each day Mencap will be sharing some of the powerful stories we have received on the following themes:
- Your first day at school – Monday
- Your first love – Tuesday
- Your first job – Wednesday
- Your first time voting – Thursday
- Your first home – Friday
- Your first time as a parent – Saturday
- Your first grey hair – Sunday
For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact the Mencap press office on 020 7696 5414 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
There are 1.4 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 Direct on 0808 808 1111 (9am-5pm, Monday-Friday) or email email@example.com.
What is a learning disability?
A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability which can cause problems with everyday tasks – for example shopping and cooking, or travelling to new places – which affects someone for their whole life.
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.
Learning disability is not a mental illness or a learning difficulty. Very often the term ‘learning difficulty’ is wrongly used interchangeably with ‘learning disability’.