Campaigners deliver lesson on learning disability in Parliament
Young learning disability campaigners gathered at the Scottish Parliament yesterday (12th December) to tell MSPs about their experiences of being bullied and to promote ‘change through understanding’.
Standing outside the Parliament building in Edinburgh, a band of ‘Change Champions’ from charity ENABLE Scotland held placards with personal details about themselves, encouraging the public to challenge their perceptions on learning disability.
This was followed by a session speaking to a panel of MSPs and anti-bullying campaigners, including Graeme Dey MSP, Jackie Baillie MSP, Jeremy Balfour MSP and Pamela Graham from Respect Me – Scotland’s anti-bullying service. The Change Champions also presented a powerful film highlighting their personal experiences and their ‘abilities, not disabilities’.
Recent research by ENABLE Scotland found that two thirds of the young people they engage with through their services who have a learning disability or Autism Spectrum Disorder, said they have experienced bullying.
ENABLE Scotland’s #BetheChange campaign, supported by funding from Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, aims to tackle the bullying of people who have learning disabilities and to break down barriers, encourage respect, understanding, support and friendship.
James Anderson (14), from Arbroath, was one of the Change Champions attending the event. James set up a home-help business in his community, offering ironing, cleaning and grocery shopping services. He said:
“I am more than my disability. I run my own business but people still only see things that I can’t do, not the things I’m good at.
“I wanted to be a Change Champion because I was bullied at school. I want to let people know, if they’re getting bullied they’re not alone.
“I want people to look behind the label and what they think they know about people with learning disabilities, people like me. All I can ask is that people take the time to get to know me for who I really am.”
According to ENABLE Scotland, nine out of 10 people who have learning disabilities report that they have been bullied in their communities.
As part of the campaign, the charity has supported the training of a group of Change Champions to deliver workshops across Scotland throughout 2018, giving people who have learning disabilities a platform to share their personal stories and raise awareness of unacceptable behaviour and practices.
Change Champion Lucy McKee (18), from Bearsden, said:
“I won’t let bullies take my happiness away. Life is hard enough for people with learning disabilities without being bullied.
“I joined this campaign to make things better for myself, but also for others. I refuse to be a label someone else chooses for me. I have feelings, hopes and dreams, just like everyone else.”
Callum Bennett (16) from Bearsden, said:
“I want people to know that I’m still human. I’m a person just like them. I’m young, I’m in my final year at school. I like partying and hanging out with my friends. I’m just like any other 16-year-old. I refuse to be defined by my disability.”
Theresa Shearer, CEO of ENABLE Scotland, said:
“We’re extremely grateful to our Change Champions for their hard work and for sharing their inspiring personal stories with a panel of experts at the Scottish Parliament. With their help, we hope to empower even more people to change perceptions of people who have learning disabilities for the long term.
“Through our Change Champions we want to engage with communities and individuals and give them the know-how and confidence to be the change themselves – to challenge unacceptable behavior towards people who have learning disabilities when it occurs – but more than that, to be a friend.
“It’s time to break down barriers and ensure that people who have learning disabilities are respected and valued, and that any obstacles to an equal society for all are challenged and removed.”