Disability History Month
What we have been doing
From 16th November to 16th December it is world disability history month. Here at Leeds Mencap we are always championing disabilities and this month was no different. We celebrated Disability History Month in many different ways. We held a tea party with Leeds Conservatoire Students Union to help raise awareness about Learning disabilities and educate students about what support is on offer and we have shared teaching resources with local primary schools to help them, educate and raise awareness to their pupils about learning disabilities
Why is it still important today?
Although, great progress has been made to ensure that those with disabilities can be respected, included and valued, the recent Covid-19 pandemic unfortunately highlighted the inequalities that people with learning disabilities still face. The overall mortality rate of people with disabilities compared to those without was far higher, around 3-4 times that of the general population (Public Health England 2020) and the mortality rate for ‘disabled men’ was 3.1 times higher than ‘non-disabled men’. Furthermore, research has shown that disabled people made up 60% of all deaths involving COVID-19 for the period to July 2020 (Office National Statistics 2020) and at least 400,000 people suffering from long-Covid come under the Equality Act definition of being disabled. These statistics demonstrate the inequalities that still go on and they are only for those who have a diagnosed disability. Many go unrecognised and undiagnosed for years, meaning the problem is likely to be much worse.
This shocking inequality only tells part of the story. For example guidance, that people could not be accompanied when travelling to hospital by emergency ambulance, disproportionately impacted those with a learning disability. This is because it is often essential that people with a learning disability are accompanied by someone who knows them well and can meet their support needs to reduce anxiety and distress. However, when surveyed 1/4 Learning Disability nurses said they had seen examples where people with a learning disability have not been allowed to be accompanied by a family member, carer or supporter in hospital (Mencap Learning Disability Nurse Survey 2020). These examples make it clear that there is still a long way to go in terms of equality.
Part of the problem is that disabled people are often given the label ’vulnerable’ when in reality it should be viewed as ‘greater risk of infection, disease or death’. This label prevents someone with a disability from getting the correct support and recognition with their condition.
Brief History of Learning Disabilities
Between 1906 – 1914 some researchers such as Charles Booth managed studies to find out the cause of poverty. The results showed that low pay, unemployment and disability were the main causes. The Liberal government passed reforms to help in reducing poverty, however only limited action was taken in helping the disabled.
The introduction of the Labour Government Welfare state of 1945 – 1951 should have included some support for those with disabilities, however they were left out. UKDHM 2019 finally fully covered the struggle for disabled people by providing decent benefits, independent living and closing institutions.
There is still more to be done within society against the discrimination of disabled people. About 2% of the UK population have a learning disability. When it comes to learning disabilities in the workplace there may be a barrier. Only 7% of adults with learning disabilities are in paid work. Someone with a learning disability may also experience exclusion from education and social activities. These stigmas can negatively impact one’s life as they may feel lonely or depressed that they are not given the same opportunities.
So how do we change these attitudes?
Helping to raise awareness is key to overcoming this negative attitude. Here at Leeds Mencap our goal is to support young people and their families with disabilities whilst raising awareness. Social media is a powerful tool to help improve perceptions as well as educating people around you about learning disabilities. The best way to improve attitudes towards learning disabilities is to have personal contact with people who live with a learning disability and listen to their story as well as the stigmas they have to face. Educating the people around you about learning disabilities is essential to overcoming discrimination and stigmas associated.