A new online tool is giving the public the opportunity to ask some of the taboo questions about learning disability that usually they’d be too afraid to ask.
The tool, Understand Me, has been launched as part of learning disability charity Mencap’s new Here I Am campaign.
New research from Ipsos Mori and Mencap revealed huge confusion and fear of contact among the public around learning disability. For instance, 27% of people thought learning disability was a form of mental illness, and the same percentage thought a learning disability does not last your whole life. Also, only 30% of people said they would feel comfortable sat next to someone with a mild learning disability in the cinema, or during a show or concert.
Mencap hopes Understand Me can break down this confusion and fear. When the public visit the site, they are greeted by Aeren Fitzgerald, a 28-year-old woman with a learning disability, who is ready and waiting to answer the questions that the public are usually too afraid to ask, such as ‘can people with a learning disability have sex?’, ‘how should I treat someone with a learning disability?’ and ‘can people with learning disabilities have babies?’
Understand Me is part of Mencap’s Here I Am campaign, which is using the media to give the public more contact and understanding of learning disability. By allowing people with a learning disability to be seen and heard across the media and giving the public direct contact with them, the charity is tackling negative attitudes.
“I’m very passionate about learning disability and about trying to make sure that everyone is treated the same, no one is treated differently because of their disability,” said Fitzgerald.
“People with a learning disability are just like everyone else and should be treated just like anybody else. They just need more support than others. But, lots of people still don’t realise this and there are always lots of questions that people are too afraid to ask. Things like ‘what is your love life like’ or ‘do we have sex’? Silly questions but one’s people have asked me.
“It’s really important that more people know more about learning disability and I’m pleased that I’m helping more people understand learning disability with the Understand Me site.”