At the time of writing, the country is currently in lockdown because of coronavirus. It is a scary and lonely time for many people with a learning disability, like me, who are trying to understand what is going on. We have also faced additional challenges because of a lack of accessible information about coronavirus.
I know from my work as Campaigns Support Officer working on Mencap’s Treat me well campaign that accessible information is important for people with a learning disability.
Through our campaign, we’ve been working with healthcare staff to improve how people with a learning disability are treated in hospital. Reasonable adjustments, like not using jargon and providing information in easy read, make a huge difference – they can even help save lives.
I have been working with my colleagues at Mencap to put Government guidance on coronavirus into easy read to help people with a learning disability stay safe during this health crisis.
With healthcare professionals under more pressure, it is more important than ever that people with a learning disability are treated equally and can access information and healthcare like anyone else.
As part of our Treat me well campaign, Mencap has been working with the TV show Casualty to raise awareness of this issue. The storyline, which has been on TV during lockdown, has shown how doctors can make reasonable adjustments.
In the storyline, a young boy who has a learning disability called Howie goes into hospital with stomach pains but is turned away because doctors don’t think there is anything wrong with him. Howie’s mum, Nicola, knows that, even though her son doesn’t show pain in the same way as other children, something is seriously wrong.
It takes a run in with Doctor Rash, who understands learning disability and makes reasonable adjustments, to save the day.
Reasonable adjustments are small things that make a world of difference and they don’t cost the earth. They include using accessible language, providing clearer information like using pictures or easy-read and having extra time in appointments so doctors can understand someone’s needs and make sure important things are not missed.
Through our Treat me well campaign, I have delivered workshops to healthcare workers across the country. Many doctors, nurses and other health staff will soon be receiving compulsory training so that they better understand the needs of people with a learning disability. This is great news, but I really hope that people like me will be involved in delivering the courses so that they can hear about our experiences first hand.
I want a world where people with a learning disability are seen, heard and treated equally. One of the biggest problems is that we are not visible in society. That’s why this Casualty storyline is so important. Not only does it show the big difference reasonable adjustments can make for patients with a learning disability but I hope it will increase understanding about learning disability across society too.
For information and advice about coronavirus and reasonable adjustments in hospital, visit Mencap’s website: www.mencap.org.uk.