Ahead of New Years Eve, Mencap did a poll of 100 top UK music venues, and of the 60 that replied just 28% held events for people with a learning disability.
1 in 4 people with a learning disability spend less than an hour a day outside their homes and social exclusion is a real issue for many. People with a learning disability may need more support to participate in common leisure activities such as going to a gig or a nightclub. These venues are often intimidating places and ticketing websites can be inaccessible, whilst the way support workers hours are arranged by local authorities means social workers can’t always support people late at night.
Some of the music venues that responded put on club nights specifically for a learning disability audience that allow carers in free, start well before 9pm, are signed up to the GigBuddies scheme and are created in an environment that people with a learning disability will find less intimidating. However this poll shows they are in the minority and many music venues are missing out on an entire new audience, whilst some small adjustments could open them up the 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK.
Of the top 100 UK music venues just 60 replied to questions about their accessibility towards people with a learning disability.
Hinal Shah, 24 years old who has a learning disability said:
“I never go out on New Year’s Eve and this year will be no different. Venues are too crowded and can be very expensive. It’s not easy to get tickets in advance and venues can be very confusing when you are inside. This should change as young people with a learning disability need to have the chance to have our own social life and meet new people’s as well.”
Jan Tregelles, chief executive of the learning disability charity Mencap said:
“New Year’s Eve is a time when many people go out and celebrate yet it also shines a spotlight on how people with a learning disability may need a bit more support to engage in the types of community activities that many people take for granted.
“Although we know of music venues becoming more inclusive to people with a learning disability, it is still hard to find events that have made adjustments to ensure all people are able to enjoy them. Young people with a learning disability want to socialise and have a good time as much as anyone else, yet the opportunities aren’t always there.
“There are 1.4 million people in the UK with a learning disability so this is a huge audience being overlooked and with a few small adjustments these music venues could allow people with a learning disability to live their lives how they choose and access their local entertainment facilities.”
As part of the poll Mencap interviewed a number of their Young Ambassadors to discuss why they feel music venues are inaccessible to young people with a learning disability.
Zoe, 22 who has a learning disability and is one of Mencap’s Young Ambassadors said:
“I’m 22 years of age and want to have the opportunities to experience life in the same way as everyone else. All my friends get to go to see their favourite bands and have fun in the evenings. Having a learning disability means sometimes this isn’t possible due to not getting the support. Some venues put on accessible nights and I want to see more of this. Why should I be missing out on all the fun?”
Catherine Larkin, 26 years old who has a learning disability said:
“It’s hard to say why but I’ve been to events Mencap have put on for people with a learning disability and there’s a big difference. I’m quite sensitive to noise and I would worry about embarrassing myself in front of people who might not know anything about learning disability.”
Catrina Bassey, 20 years old who has a learning disability said:
“There’s lots of barriers to going to these places – the noise and the crowds would disturb me. Because of this I don’t feel safe going to these places. It’s very hard to go out and be accepted if you have a learning disability. If I had a friend to go with or a Gigbuddy then I would feel more comfortable.
There are 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK. Mencap works to support people with a learning disability, their families and carers by fighting to change laws, improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities. Mencap supports thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want.
For advice and information about learning disability and Mencap services in your area, contact Mencap Direct on 0808 808 1111 (9am-5pm, Monday-Friday) or email firstname.lastname@example.org