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David Blunkett And Stephen Hawking Are The Public Faces Of Disabled Britain

May 16, 2011

I have just recieved the press release below from Jessica Strudwick at Mencap.

  • Majority of the British population are unable to name a high profile person with a disability
  • David Blunkett and Stephen Hawking are the most well known and Susan Boyle is the only public figure named who has a learning disability

Over half the British population (52 per cent) are unable to name a high profile person they have seen in the media with a disability, increasing to 99 per cent who are unable to correctly name someone with a learning disability, a new Ipsos MORI poll for charity Mencap, reveals.

Labour MP, David Blunkett, who is blind, and theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking, who has motor neurone disease, were the most frequently mentioned people with a disability in the poll (13 per cent each), followed by actor, Stephen Fry, who has bipolar disorder (8 per cent). Less than one per cent of respondents were able to correctly name a high profile person with a learning disability, namely the former Britain’s Got Talent star, Susan Boyle.

Mark Goldring, Mencap’s chief executive, said: “In Great Britain there are 10 million people with a disability and 1.5 million people who have a learning disability. Despite this being a sizeable part of the population, the survey reveals that people with disabilities are under-represented in the media and in public life and that people with a learning disability are particularly invisible in UK society.”

“Mencap’s Viewpoint magazine has just released the ‘Hotlist’ for 2011 highlighting a number of talented individuals with a learning disability. This shows that Britain has a wealth of disabled talent and we need to see more positive role models in the media and in public life to help remove the stigmas associated with disability and to encourage a shift in public perception to enable people with a disability to be treated equally in society.”

The poll also revealed that a large segment of the public (41 per cent) believe that the number of people with a disability who they have seen, heard or read about in the media does not reflect that of society as a whole. Just 21 per cent thought media coverage of people with a disability was reflective of society.

Encouragingly, 44 per cent of the public are keen to see, hear or read more about people with disabilities in the media than there are at the moment with only a small minority (12 per cent) who disagreed.

Whilst Susan Boyle is the best known person with a learning disability in public life, there are countless other people who are incredibly skilled in their own fields including elite swimmer and 2012 Paralympic hopeful Daniel Pepper, local Welsh Councillor Sara Pickard and actor Tommy Jessop who has featured in Holby City and the BAFTA nominated TV movie, Coming Down the Mountain.

These are just a few people named in Mencap’s Viewpoint ‘Hotlist’ for 2011 which showcases 20 people with a learning disability who are extremely talented in the realms of sport, politics and the arts.

Actor Jez Colborne who also features in the Hotlist had this advice for people with a learning disability who want to pursue their talent: “Just make sure you don’t get put off. You’ve got a talent – use it. Don’t let anybody tell you ‘you’ve got a disability so it’s hard’. Yes, it’s hard, but I’ve done it so why can’t anyone else? I feel very strongly, that people shouldn’t put other people down.”

To find out more information about learning disability or to see Viewpoint’s Hotlist and picture gallery visit www.mencap.org.uk/hotlist.

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