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
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.
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.
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