What is it like to have a learning disability?

and what little things can employers and organizations do to help?
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Created by Aisha

Published on Apr 7, 2021
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My name is Aisha, I am 27 years old and I have grown up and live in Catford, London. When I was born I suffered from meningitis, which resulted in me having a learning disability. What this means to me is that I probably learn and understand things differently to someone who doesn’t have a learning disability, but it definitely doesn’t mean I can’t learn or I can’t do particular things. For example, for me personally I understand things best by visually seeing them. Some other people will learn better verbally and so on.

Currently, I work for a charity called Lewisham Speaking Up. Lewisham Speaking Up advocate for people with a learning disability and get their voices heard. I am one of 6 representatives who were successfully elected. I was interviewed and had to give a speech on why I wanted to be elected. I love Lewisham Speaking Up because it gives people a voice and it provides resources to those who don’t know who to go to for help.

I wanted to work for Lewisham Speaking Up as I saw it as a great opportunity for me. I wanted to have a voice and speak truthfully on behalf of others whose voices aren’t being heard. This is where I started to get really passionate about advocacy, especially advocating for those with a learning disability. I realised that I could be an influence in the decisions made around supporting those with a learning disability. It is amazing all of the meetings I get to be involved in. Recently, I spoke on a panel about housing in Lewisham, and how housing could be more accessible to those with a learning disability.

Lewisham Speaking Up has shown me my true potential and how I can make an impact. I’ve spoken at conferences with Learning Disability England and the Voice Council, I’ve worked as an usher at the Young Vic (I got furloughed in March), and I have taken part in employment programmes with Royal Mencap Society too. I know how people with a learning disability can be negatively affected in many areas of society, and that’s why I’m so proud to be an advocate and be able to speak on behalf of millions of people in England.

I hope that this can show people like me that anything is possible if you have a learning disability because I have done lots of different jobs. If you put your mind to something, and stick your goals, you can accomplish your dreams. It can be difficult though and there is so much that could be done to support those with a learning disability better. Employers need to look at those with a learning disability differently. We are capable of so much and they shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. It’s about reasonable adjustments in the workplace, it’s not having to change the whole company to help us learn a job. For example, some things that have helped me in the workplace and might be good for employers to implement in their workplaces are having a mentor or buddy system to help provide support and answer questions about the job when needed, having easy to read documents, and allowing for more frequent breaks. Employers could also use Access to Work to apply for funding for extra or specialised equipment, including a job coach in order to support the individual in undertaking their role. These little adjustments can go a long way in helping an employee with a learning disability perform at their full potential.

This kind of work is so important to me because I want to give people with a learning disability a voice, and also show everyone their potential in life.

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