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Challenging how we feel about disability

Challenging how we feel about disability

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Rachel Healy, Marketing and Communications Manager at Share Community (who run the Share Community Garden and Nurseries in Tooting) talks about how they champion greater social inclusion for disabled people and how to expand our understanding of learning disabilities.

Recently we had a really enjoyable experience on a trip out with our students. Like many people with learning disabilities, they often struggle with communication and this can affect their confidence. So venturing out comes with challenges. We were so happy when a local restaurant in Clapham Junction treated our group with respect and patience. We were greeted and served by attentive and welcoming staff who showed us to our table in an area of the restaurant with plenty of space. The staff took the time to speak individually to each student to take their drink orders and even sent over complimentary bread and french fries which we all really enjoyed. At the end of our visit the manager came out to personally thank us for coming. Needless to say we were delighted to encounter such a positive public attitude to disability.

At Share one of our objectives is to campaign for greater social inclusion for disabled people. We believe that everyone should have equal access to everything that life has to offer. And so we challenge public attitudes and advocate on behalf of those we represent.

Sometimes, without meaning to, people may feel uncomfortable or unsure of how to treat those with a learning disability. United Response, a charity campaigning for disabled people’s rights are running a campaign called ‘Am I Your Problem?’. It aims to challenge the “indifference, hidden discrimination and sometimes outright hostility” that sadly exists for people with a learning disability or autism. Their survey found that 1 in 4 people “feel they have been victimised in shops or restaurants or on public transport.”
 

  

So what can we do in our everyday lives to help ensure that everybody feels included? How should you treat somebody who has a learning disability?

  • Be patient – some people with a learning disability may need time to communicate. Don’t rush, give them some time and space and go at their pace.
  • Treat people like adults – many people with learning disabilities are spoken to as if they are children; whilst you should speak clearly and not rush, try to avoid being patronising.
  • Don’t be afraid – people with learning disabilities sometimes feel anxious which makes them uncomfortable. If they feel you are suspicious or afraid of them this can make these feelings worse.

Ultimately it comes down to challenging our assumptions about what normal is. It’s important that as a society we help increase opportunities for people who are often marginalised. Change comes from understanding and acceptance and a huge step towards this is expanding our awareness of disability.
 

Share Community is a registered charity that provides training and employment support for disabled adults, including those with learning disabilities, autism, physical/sensory impairments and mental health needs. To find out more about Share’s work or how you can get involved, visit our website at www.sharecommunity.org.uk 

 


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