Mencap poll reveals huge public ignorance of learning disabilities

Mencap has exposed widespread public ignorance about what constitutes a learning disability in a survey published today as part of the launch of a new identity for the charity.

The poll of over 1,600 people found 73% of people could not accurately name a single learning disability when asked to name up to three, and just 9% gave a fully correct response.

Little progress in awareness

There appears to have been little progress since a similar public poll carried out by Mencap in 2004, in which less than 1% of people got three correct answers but 42% got every answer wrong.

In a separate poll of 103 MPs, who were asked to name three learning disabilities, 74% got at most one right and 20% got none at all.

The most popular response in both polls was dyslexia – a learning difficulty rather than a learning disability – which was cited by 49% of MPs and 27.5% of the public. Another popular incorrect answer – backed by 44% of MPs and 12% of the public – was autism. Though many autistic people do have accompanying learning disabilities, it is not in itself a learning disability.

Blindness and deafness

More startlingly, 12% of MPs cited deafness as a learning disability, and 9% blindness, an answer given by 7% of respondents to the public poll.

Commenting on the results, Leroy Binns, campaigns assistant at Mencap, said: “I do not understand how people can be so wrong about what a learning disability is. There are 1.5m people with a learning disability, but we appear to be invisible and unimportant to so many people.”

The most popular correct answer was Down’s syndrome, named by 34% of MPs but just 6% of the public. Other learning disabilities include Edward’s and Fragile X syndromes.

Mencap definition

As part of its relaunch, Mencap has provided the following definition of learning disability: “A learning disability is caused by the way the brain develops before, during or shortly after birth. It is always lifelong. It is not mental illness or dyslexia. People with a learning disability find it harder than others to learn, understand and communicate.”

Mencap also launched a manifesto today, outlining its vision of making people with learning disabilities equal citizens.

Related articles

Mencap unveils new identity and mission to deliver equality

Mencap launches font designed by people with learning disabilities

What Mencap wants to see change for people with learning disabilities

Essential information on learning disabilities





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