Exclusion of people with learning disabilities

December 3, 2019

New research published today uncovers the extent of exclusion faced by people with learning disabilities and autism across the country.

Today marks International Day of People with Disabilities, which calls for greater representation across society to tackle entrenched social biases and increase understanding.

The research published by Dimensions to coincide with this day uncovers a widespread sense of exclusion amongst people with learning disabilities and autism, with 96% of those surveyed having felt misunderstood by others. Despite nearly all (98%) believing they should have the same opportunities as everyone else, over half (54%) believe they do not.

Sarah Clarke, Campaigns Manager at Dimensions, said, 'It should be a wake-up call to all of us that people with autism and learning disabilities feel misunderstood and underestimated. We all need to do better, to make society more welcoming and inclusive.'

The research is also released with the Dimensions 2019 Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List – the UK’s national listing recognising people with learning disabilities and autism who are challenging stereotypes and entrenched social prejudices, to make communities better for themselves and others. Sarah continued, 'We’re incredibly proud to be celebrating this year’s Leaders, who are not only challenging perceptions but also inspiring others and showing the world that everyone can make a difference. We can all learn so much from them.'

With 99% of people surveyed thinking society doesn’t understand what people with learning disabilities and autism are capable of, the achievements of this year’s Leaders comes a long way to challenge outdated perceptions.

Celebrated on this year’s List are, among others, Matthew Hallett, a filmmaker, performer and Head Programmer for Oska Bright, the leading learning disability film festival in the world, and Shauna Elise-Hogan, who has Down’s Syndrome, was deemed a health and safety risk at school, and has gone on to win hundreds of medals at Down’s Syndrome and Special Olympics events, pursuing her passion for swimming.

According to Dimensions, only 3% of people with learning disabilities and autism think they are represented enough in sports, arts and the media. The research highlights the profound difference that greater representation would have; 87% said they would feel part of society and 82% said they would feel respected.

This entrenched lack of representation is shown to be fuelling loneliness and 98% of people with learning disabilities and autism think more needs to be done to tackle it.

Exclusion of people with learning disabilities and autism is also an issue on a wider level. Dimensions' research showed that 92% of people with learning disabilities and autism want to be more involved in government and business decision-making.

The Learning Disability and Autism Leaders' List showcases and celebrates the work and achievements of people who are drawing on their personal experiences to tackle these issues, and Dimensions hopes that by sharing their stories, more people will be inspired to aim for inclusion.

Actor and writer, Sally Phillips said, 'We urgently need greater representation of people with learning disabilities and autism in our society, in the arts, culture and sports. By sharing empowering stories like those celebrated on the Leaders’ List, we can help make society more inclusive and welcoming for everyone.'

Sarah Clarke continued, 'Everyone can learn something from people with learning disabilities and autism – 99% of those we asked agree. We hope our Leaders inspire change and demonstrate that we all play an important part – from individuals to decision makers – to make society more inclusive.

'We hope these stories inspire others and help them realise that their ambition – however big or small – can make a real difference.'

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