Young people with learning disabilities consistently have bad experiences at clubs and concerts, according to a new study released last week by UK charity Mencap. Of the nearly 300 people in the UK between the ages of 18 and 35 surveyed for Mencap's research, one in four reported that they had been bullied in a club. One in three reported that they had been afraid of staff at music venues.
As a result of the findings, Mencap is encouraging clubs to add learning disability awareness training to their usual staff training protocol. 56 percent of the people surveyed reported that they would be more likely to go on nights out if the staff at venues and clubs understood more about learning disabilities.
Kelsey Ramsey, one of the people Mencap surveyed, said she would like to go to more concerts and clubs but is not comfortable doing so after a number of bad experiences. "When I was volunteering at a music festival recently a man called me a 'retard' every time he saw me," the 24-year-old said. "It really hurt my feelings and made me feel unwelcome. I've been called the R word before, and I know that people make comments about me and how I look. It makes it hard to carry on doing the things I love," she said.
Mencap is now making a new push to promote its Sidekick program, which connects volunteers with people with a learning disability in their area who have similar interests. Whether those people like going to clubs, the movies, or running marathons, the program is designed for volunteers to help people with learning disabilities do the things they love.
"People with a learning disability have a right to a night out like anyone else," said Mencap's Head of Campaigns and Activism, Rossanna Trudgian. "But the reality is if you are young and have a learning disability you're likely to be blocked out of something as universal as music due to fear of staff or public attitudes. What's worse, bullying seems to be one of the reasons people with a learning disability don't attend gigs or nightclubs, and this needs to change."
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