One in 4 young people with a learning disability aged 18-35 say they have been bullied by members of the public at nightclubs or concerts and 1 in 3 have been afraid of staff at music venues, a survey has found.
The survey, by learning disability charity Mencap, also found that 55.6% of respondents said they would be more likely to go on nights out if staff understood more about learning disability.
Almost 1 in 3 young people with a learning disability spend less than 1 hour a day outside their homes on a Saturday.
Mencap has called on the music community to work together to eliminate this problem by remaining vigilant, asking venues to expand their staff training to include learning disability awareness, and announcing a recruitment drive for Mencap’s Sidekick scheme.
Kelsey Ramsey is 24 and has a learning disability, she wants to go to more gigs, clubs and festivals but after a number of negative experiences, and one recently at a major festival, is afraid to do so. “When I was volunteering at a music festival recently a man called me a retard every time he saw me, it really hurt my feelings and made me feel unwelcome,” she said. “I’ve been called the R word before, and I know that people make comments about me and how I look, it makes it hard to carry on doing the things I love.
“Music is one of my favourite things and I love going to gigs, clubs and festivals but it isn’t something I can do a lot. It’s mainly nerves and anxiety. When you have a learning disability people look at you and judge how you act and how you look, so that can stop me from going out because I worry people are going to make fun of me. It really knocks your self-confidence.
“I’m in my mid-twenties so not going to clubs and concerts means I don’t get to go out as much as I would like. Lots of youth clubs for people with a learning disability cut off at a certain age, so what are you meant to do then? You are just left sitting at home doing nothing. I want to be able to go out and do the same things as other people my age but most of the time it feels impossible.”
Rossanna Trudgian, head of campaigns and activism for Mencap, said: “People with a learning disability have a right to a night out like anyone else. But the reality is if you are young and have a learning disability you’re likely to be blocked out of something as universal as music due to fear of staff or public attitudes. What’s worse bullying seems to be one of the reasons people with a learning disability don’t attend gigs or nightclubs and this needs to change.
“Music should be open to everyone and I urge music venues and live music fans to work together to tackle this issue head on by staying ever alert for incidents of bullying and ensuring venue staff have had learning disability awareness training.”
Mencap’s Sidekick Scheme connects volunteers with people with a learning disability in their area who have similar interests and help them get out to do the things they love, e.g going to a gig, club, cinema, theatre or the gym. The scheme helps to ensure that people with a learning disability are able to live the life they choose and do the things they love. Find out more here.