Ask Your QuestionA group of people with learning disabilities debated issues including hate crime and the ‘bedroom tax’ at a recent ‘Ask the Question’ session held in Westminster.

Thirty people with learning disabilities and autism attended the session in Portcullis House, which was the first ‘Ask Your Question’ designed just for people with learning disabilities. It was organised by service provider Dimensions as part of Parliament Week.

The event was chaired by Pete Le Grys, director of Photo Symbols and accessibility expert. The panel comprised MP Dame Anne Begg, autism awareness campaigner Kevin Healey, social affairs journalist Saba Salman and human rights lawyer Christopher Stanley.

Graphic facilitators worked through the session to demonstrate through images and words what the debate covered, making the event truly accessible.

During the debates, audience members were encouraged to challenge bedroom tax, stand up to hate crime and bullying and to talk to their local MPs. Asked about trusting politicians, Begg said: “Most people who come into politics come in for? Absolutely the right reasons – they want to make the world a better place.”

Need to be heard

Sebastian Beaman of Chippenham, who has learning disabilities, attended. He said: “I wanted to come because I like to talk to people and hear their views. I think that people with learning disabilities need to be heard.”

George Smyrnios of Middlesex, who also has learning disabilities, asked a question about the police going to other countries. “I wanted to see what the panel said about my question. I am not keen on politics but I wanted to hear what the MP said about the police and she answered my question,” he said.

Le Grys added: “There was a wide range of questions asked by the audience and I feel the panellists were rightly challenged by these. It offered a great opportunity for a variety of experts to be in one room where very topical issues were debated. I hope this event prompts other such opportunities for people with learning disabilities to get involved with democracy and Parliament.”

Steve Scown, chief executive of Dimensions, added that the event allowed people with learning disabilities to truly have a voice and be listened to. “It is so important for their opinions to be heard and for them to be engaged in politics as much as possible. This way they can play their part in our democracy.  

“Ask Your Question allowed people to feel included and get answers to their questions in an accessible and instant way. It was also encouraging to see that places for the session booked up so quickly, which shows a real enthusiasm and thirst for information about Parliament by the learning disability community.

“This shouldn’t be a one-off event. People with learning disabilities should never be marginalised from the real debates in society and I hope this paves the way for them to be more involved with Parliament.”

For more information about the event, visit www.dimensions-uk.org/askyourquestion