This June, Learning Disability Week (20 to 26 June 2022) will celebrate the amazing impact of people with a learning disability in our society and shine a light on the issues many still face.
This year’s theme around ‘Living Life with a Learning Disability’ will demonstrate the positive aspect of living with a learning disability and help educate and raise awareness for those who don’t yet know what a learning disability is, or what life can be like for somebody that has one.
There are 1.5 million people in the UK living with a learning disability and Mencap are here to help them live life to the fullest. Mencap Myth Buster Aisha speaks to Enable about what the week means to her.
- Firstly, could you tell me a bit about yourself and your interests?
My name is Aisha Edwards, I’m 28 and I live in Catford, South London. I like going out and having fun with my friends, going to family parties and working.
I work three different jobs and I love it! I’m an usher at the Young Vic theatre, I’m a self-advocate for Lewisham Speaking Up, where I get to go to schools to do activity workshops for children with high needs and to go parliament to talk about things like housing, health, and employment for people with a learning disability. I’m also on Mencap’s Voices Council, where I help to advise and guide Mencap on their priorities and decisions from the perspective of living with a learning disability.
My mum still asks me “how do you do that?”, I said by a miracle! One minute I was in school, then in college, now I’ve got three jobs.
- When did you first become involved with Mencap?
Oh boy. It was about five years ago. I joined a five-week traineeship programme where they supported me to learn the skills I needed to move into paid work. After the programme, I got a job at the Young Vic as an usher, and I’ve been there for four years now! Then the opportunity to be on Mencap’s Voices Council came about after they saw me thriving in my job.
- What was it like becoming a Mencap Myth Buster?
It was so much fun! When I saw myself on TV (for the campaign launch), it was amazing. My mum was so proud.
I love being on the squad and fighting the misconceptions people have about learning disability. I think people should just have equal rights. Everyone with a learning disability should have a paid job if they want to, I don’t like when people judge others.
Teachers at school said I wasn’t going to get a job and I would never amount to anything, so I wanted to prove them wrong. I turned it around and made it positive and went out and got a job. I didn’t think I would but now I have three!
- Why do you feel Learning Disability Week is important?
Learning Disability Week is so important because it raises awareness of learning disability. Mencap released some statistics last year which revealed that two out of three adults in the UK do not know what a learning disability is, and two out of five adults think a learning disability is dyslexia so it’s important that people understand what it really is.
The week is also important to celebrate people with a learning disability’s achievements. I’ve had loads of achievements I didn’t think I would be able to do, like being on TV, and it makes me feel good to be able to talk about them.
Everyone with a learning disability can shine and it’s a week to show the world what we can do. People with a learning disability can go out, have a social life and get a job – people think we can’t do anything, but we can do so much!
- This year’s theme is ‘living life with a learning disability’. What does this theme mean to you?
I love the theme! It means to me that we can show everyone what people with a learning disability are really made off and show the lives we have, which some people don’t think is possible! It’s nice to be able to prove people wrong.
- How would you like to see people’s perceptions of people with a learning disability change?
I want people with a learning disability to be given more chances, like I was given a chance by the Young Vic. I want people to see that we can achieve a lot of things and really be a part of society.
- What would you say to employers to encourage them to employ people with a learning disability?
That we can do it. Just 6% of adults with a learning disability known to their local authority in England are in paid work but people with a learning disability can make great employees with the right support. People with a learning disability, every single one, should be given a chance to be able to work.
- How will you be marking Learning Disability Week?
Lewisham Speaking Up have some workshops during this week so I’ll pop into a few, and I’ll also be celebrating myself!
- How can Enable readers get involved?
Celebrate and fundraise with us! Mencap’s website has loads of resources which tells you about what a learning disability is and how you can raise vital funds to support our services.
- Is there anything else you would like to mention?
Just that people with a learning disability can achieve anything they want to like I have. I am so proud of myself; I really like working at the Young Vic they feel like family.
To find out more about Learning Disability Week, visit www.mencap.org.uk/LDWeek.