Are you facing a problem in your life? Could you limit the cause of your problem to one specific personal characteristic? No?
Often when we face a problem, it’s the result of a culmination of factors. Your problem might be ‘unemployment’. But when you lack self-confidence, face racial discrimination from potential employers, can’t search for jobs because you don’t have an internet connection, and feel mounting pressure to pay bills, care for children and maintain your health condition – it can feel like a lot more than just one problem. So why should people with learning disabilities have to view the problems they face in life through the narrow lens of disability? People are complex – trying to define their problems for them can be unhelpful and discriminatory, and can discourage people from wanting to discuss what’s really happening to them.
SCLD is using Learning Disability Week 2015 as an opportunity to tackle a variety of important and rarely discussed issues, under the theme of ‘Equalities’.
We think it’s important to address the every-day, difficult, unfair and often distressing problems people with learning disabilities face in other areas of life. People with learning disabilities face issues because of their sex, gender, age, sexuality, race, and religious beliefs too, and we want to ensure we provide people with the chance to discuss these problems in a context that is accessible and considerate of their needs.
We have a busy schedule of free SCLD events running across the country, and are also coordinating the central events calendar on the keystolife.info website. Many organisations have grasped the opportunity to get involved; running their own events, and working with SCLD to develop fresh ideas. Partnership working has really broadened our scope, adding a depth and level of expertise to the variety of subjects we’re tackling. While SCLD has organised events addressing issues faced by older people, digital excluded people, women, and people who identify as LGB or T – other organisations are tackling the issues faced by offenders, the BME community, and much more.
We were greatly encouraged to see how passionate, imaginative and eager people can be when given the opportunity to get involved. Clearly, organisations across sectors and issues understand the importance of working with others, and acknowledge that people don’t fit easily into one or two categories.
For example, I am responsible for organising an event for women with learning disabilities, and I have no doubt that reaching out to women’s organisations across Scotland (as well as other disability focused organisations) has enriched the event planning process.
SCLD’s ‘Equal and Healthy Lives’ event for women has been supported by a diverse range of people, including: the Scottish Government, Engender, C-change, dates-n-mates, People First Scotland, Inclusion Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, Zero Tolerance, Down’s Syndrome Scotland, I Am Me Scotland, Project Ability, FAIR, Lung Ha Theatre Company and Common Knowledge. In fact, every SCLD event has been organised with the help of other organisations, ranging from charities such as PAMIS and LGBT Youth Scotland to public sector bodies like Aberdeen City Council.
Working together has encouraged learning from both sides. Just as SCLD has learned a lot from the organisations we’re working with, other organisations have openly told us that getting involved with SCLD has made them think about what more their organisation can do to be inclusive and considerate of the needs of people with learning disabilities. Building this cross-sector, cross-issue awareness is a massive part of SCLD’s goal for an inclusive Scotland. Planning for Learning Disability Week has really highlighted the idea that we can work towards our goals in indirect ways – by sharing and listening to voices from elsewhere.
A big part of Learning Disability Week is raising awareness of learning disability in the wider community. When we begin by acknowledging the complexity of people, it makes sense to reach out for help, and to build a bigger network of professionals who can work together to make things better. While this means we learn more as professionals, more importantly, people with learning disabilities engage with organisations that are better informed, have a bigger pool of resources and contacts, and have experience of dealing with a variety of issues.
While SCLD has definite outcomes for each event, (from reports and easy-read resources to the development of new training courses), I really hope that the spirit of collaboration inspired by Learning Disability Week is an outcome that we can learn from and build on for the future.
Find event and booking information for Learning Disability Week by following this link: