Nine out of 10 people with a learning disability have been bullied in their own communities.
It’s a shocking statistic and one which Scottish charity Enable is hoping to radically change.
In 2014, it launched the first phase of its #BeTheChange campaign, focusing on the offensive language some people still use to label people who have learning disabilities.
Words like spastic, mongo and freak were frequently being used to abuse people.
The campaign in 2014 aimed to explain just how offensive and hurtful these words were to people on the receiving end of them.
Fast forward four years and the second phase of the #BeTheChange campaign has now been launched.
The charity has enlisted the help of seven young volunteers from all over Scotland, who each have a learning disability but are still getting on with their lives regardless.
These youngsters are proof positive, if it were needed, that people should never be labelled for any disability.
But, sadly, many of them have personally suffered at the hands of bullies.
These young champions have already given a presentation to MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, focusing on how prevalent bullying remains.
That same presentation, which they designed and developed themselves, will very soon be touring local schools and community groups across the country with the aim of making sure their message is heard, loud and clear.
On Thursday of last week, two of the Change Champions from East Dunbartonshire were also on hand to share their work with fellow third sector organisations in Scotland, at The Gathering at the SEC in Glasgow (see panel right).
Lucy McKee (18) from Bearsden and Callum Bennett (17) from Kirkintilloch are two of the magnificent seven helping Enable take a stand against ignorant people.
And Paul O’Kane, Enable campaigns officer, was on hand to introduce the duo.
He said: “Our Change Champions have taken ownership of the campaign.
“The message is quite simple: in order to know someone with a learning disability you have to listen to and engage with them.
“Don’t see the disability, see the person.
“Change Champions will engage with communities and give them the know-how and confidence to be the change themselves.
“We want everyone in Scotland to #BeTheChange – to challenge unacceptable behaviour towards people who have learning disabilities 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.”
Lucy was bullied regularly at school and is hoping the campaign will ensure people with learning disabilities in future will not suffer the same fate.
“People at school in the past told me that I shouldn’t have been born,” she said.
“That hurts, of course, but you can let it get to you and make you feel bad or you can choose to stand up to it.
“I’m proud to be a Change Champion. I want to help others – including the people who bully – to stop and to think about the person they’re bullying.
“That person isn’t just their disability; they’re not the label you choose to give them.
“They are a person, with feelings, hopes and dreams, just like everyone else.
“We can all be guilty of judging a book by its cover. We’ve all done it. But we should all take the time to get to know the person.”
Enable is hoping people across Scotland will pledge to break down barriers in their own communities.
The four-pronged pledge commits people to:-
* Be respectful towards people who have learning disabilities and stand up to bullying behaviour and abusive language, whenever they can safely do so;
* Be open to getting to know people who have learning disabilities and be a friend to them;
* Be understanding that people who have learning disabilities may need extra support but that doesn’t define them;
* And to be supoportive to people who have learning disabilities and work with them for change.
Paul said: “Our #BeTheChange campaign is a national call to action.
“We want people to use social media to spread the word and write to their MSPs asking them to support the campaign too.
“At the last election, we held hustings with candidates and discussed a variety of issues affecting people with learning disabilities.
“We want to put them on the spot and hold them to the promises they made.
“We also want people to come along to one of our ACE groups – Active Community of Empowered People – to get to know folk in their local community who have learning disabilities.
“We have 20 groups across the country – from the Borders to the Highlands.
“In May, they will all be hosting open days which will welcome members of the public who are interested in finding out more about the campaign and about our members in Scotland.”
In addition to visits by Change Champions, ENABLE hopes secondary schools across the country will play their part in the campaign.
In collaboration with the University of Strathclyde and the University of Glasgow, the charity has a series of lesson plans ready to roll out to S1 and S2 pupils.
Paul added: “It’s a six-week block of lessons which we are currently trying to get into secondary schools.
“We’d be delighted if parents ask their local education department to roll it out in local schools.”
ENABLE Scotland’s #BetheChange campaign is being funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.
On hand for everyone with a learning disability in Scotland
Enable is a Scottish charity, working for an equal society for every person who has a learning disability.
It was founded in 1954 by five sets of parents of children who had a learning disability.
They believed that their children had the same rights as everyone else. This is still what the charity believes and fights for today.
As the largest member-led learning disability charity in Scotland, members are the voice of the organisation.
The charity listens to them and acts on the issues that they think are most important.
Enable has several goals:
* It campaigns to end discrimination and break down the barriers that prevent people with a learning disability from living as equal members of society.
* The charity raises funds to support families who have nowhere else to turn and to create more opportunities for people who have a learning disability to make connections and be active in their communities.
* And it provides personalised support to enable people who have a learning disability to find work, develop their skills and live the life they choose.
Whether you, a family member or someone you care for has a learning disability, Enable is there for you, no matter where you live in Scotland. Visit the website www.enable.org.uk.