In February, Mencap launched the Myth Busters – a group of people who are living life with a learning disability, challenging misconceptions and providing greater representation for the 1.5 million people in the UK with a learning disability.
This group of new ambassadors represent the diversity of the learning disability community we so hardly see, to reduce stigma and campaign for a better society. These people demonstrate how unique learning disability is and how everyone in the community deserves to be seen and heard.
Society’s attitudes are slowly changing but there is still a lot to do. Mencap is leading the way and doing a lot of work but we need to see our society embrace this change with open arms. With the Myth Busters helping to bring about positive change, we are definitely going in the right direction.
However, there is a long way to go before our society completely changes its attitudes. As a person with a learning disability, I think the introduction of our Myth Busters is great. It’s really important we have more people with a learning disability speaking and challenging misconceptions.
One thing I am very passionate about is the use of language. Recently, I have seen some hurtful words being used. In 2022, you would think people would stop using the words like demented or the ‘r-word’*. People still don’t understand what these terms can mean for people with a learning disability and there is still a lot of education needed.
As someone with a learning disability, I am disgusted to still be hearing these words being used. I was called demented at school and I still have that horrid feeling around the word. I feel people say these words without thinking and they don’t know the reaction their words have on people like me. If we want to make the UK the best place to live, then we need to break down these barriers.
If there were more people with a learning disability in jobs and in well profiled roles in media for example, I think this would help with the understanding of learning disability and that is exactly what our Myth Busters are here to do. They will show that people with a learning disability are just like anyone else and can achieve anything.
I hope by showcasing this diverse mix of people as ambassadors and giving them all a platform to talk about what living life with a learning disability means to them, they’ll increase the visibility of people with a learning disability, not only in the media, but also in wider society.
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.
The ‘r-word’ that Ciara skilfully avoids repeating in her column is ‘retard’ – a disgusting and unacceptable term that I hope is consigned to history, sooner rather than later.