2021 was a year with both highs and lows. It was challenging in terms of coronavirus and the lockdowns, and I found it incredibly tough, but I’ve also realised several lovely achievements.  

Professionally, 2021 was amazing for me! It gave me a chance to try new things. I had many highlights, from starting my own podcast to being on Mencap’s new leadership team, which is a great responsibility – helping Mencap achieve their Big Plan (the Big Plan explains what we are going to do and how we want to change the world of learning disability). 

The biggest highlight of 2021 has to be achieving fifth place on the Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 list. That made my entire year and made me feel like I can do anything if I put my mind to it. It made me remember what I do and why I do it, which is to change the world for people like me. I want this to be a message to people with a learning disability: You can achieve anything, just like anyone else!

I think last year, people with a learning disability felt more visible than ever before and I hope this continues in 2022. A big win in 2021 was Mencap’s campaign to get everyone with a learning disability prioritised for the coronavirus vaccine. It just showed that when we all come together and make a big noise, those in charge will listen. 

I would also like to say that if you do have a learning disability, having your name on your GP’s learning disability register is so important. Lots of people don’t realise they exist and so are not listed. I encourage you to check. The pandemic has hit people with a learning disability very hard and they are at a greater risk than the general population, so it’s important we get the support we need. 

Of course, there is still a long way to go for people with a learning disability. Recent Mencap figures released as part of our 75th anniversary campaign, showed that two out of three adults in the UK do not know what a learning disability is, which I find shocking. 

As for next year, my hopes are that I see more people change their attitudes towards learning disability to help reduce the stigma. I would also like to write a book! That’s been on my bucket list for a few years and after starting my own podcast this year, anything is possible.

I hope 2022 is a year where we can see Society continue to change and work towards making the UK the best place to live in the world for people with a learning disability. Let’s make it a fantastic year of education, challenging attitudes and seeing more people with a learning disability leading the charge; being seen and heard. 

Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year!

To learn more about Mencap, visit: www.mencap.org.uk

About Ciara Lawrence 

Ciara Lawrence is a well-known learning disability campaigner and a Shaw Trust Power 100 influencer. She has written for The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and The Independent. 

Search ‘Ciara’s pink sparkle podcast’ via Google.