It all began 75 years ago. In 1946 a lady called Judy Fryd wrote to Nursery World magazine. She was the mother of a child with a learning disability who was struggling to get her a suitable education and wanted to reach out to other parents inviting them to contact her.
Many wrote back to Judy expressing their anger and sorrow at the lack of services available. That same year, Judy started the organisation that later became Mencap.
This November, Mencap celebrates its 75th anniversary. Since the beginning, Mencap has fought for equal rights and opportunities for people with a learning disability, and over the decades have made strides and campaigned to achieve positive change in their lives. Mencap have been involved in some ground-breaking work such as proving children with a learning disability need homely settings in 1958, to their Covid-19 vaccine campaign to ensure people with a learning disability were on the priority list.
In 1946 the world was completely different for people with a learning disability and their families. They were isolated and ignored by Society. I believe people’s views on learning disability have changed since then. More people are starting to understand what a learning disability is, people are starting to see us as us and not our learning disability. However, there is still a stigma towards people like me.
I came from a world that made me feel like I didn’t fit in, but it shouldn’t be a barrier in life. I didn’t want to tell people I had a learning disability but with the help of Mencap’s work throughout the decades in changing attitudes across generations, I now shout loud and proud about it every day.
There is still a long way to go however. There is a long walk to get to perfection. Sometimes it feels like there’s been a step forward and then ten steps back. Mencap’s vaccine campaign was so powerful and raised awareness of learning disability but then there are still stories of people with a learning disability being abused in inpatient units. We want to see Society change.
Mencap ultimately want the UK to be the best place in the world for the 1.5 million people with a learning disability to live happy and healthy lives. This is part of the new Big Plan, which explains what Mencap are going to do over the next five years, which is an exciting time in our history.
We want people with a learning disability to have their voices heard. There is still so much wrong with attitudes towards people with a learning disability, but the new Big Plan will help Mencap bring about lasting, positive change.
To learn more about Mencap’s new Big Plan, visit: www.mencap.org.uk
About Ciara Lawrence
Ciara Lawrence is a well-known learning disability campaigner. She has written for The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and The Independent.