We need to talk about love …

22nd May 2015

Imagine a world where you couldn’t express your needs; where you weren’t encouraged to make friends; where no one thought you needed meaningful relationships, or should have them.

This is a world some people live in every day, and one that needs challenging. Friendships, dating, and having the opportunity to form meaningful relationships is as  important for adults with learning disabilities as it is for anyone else.

We know that people often suffer from isolation and frustration when they’re not given the right opportunities to socialise. We also know that building and sustaining meaningful bonds, whether they are friendships or romantic relationships, can have a dramatically positive impact on people’s quality of life. By taking time to understand how people communicate, listening to and understanding them, we can all help people live more fulfilling lives. Lives characterised by independence, friendships and relationships. This is why we must counter misconceptions whenever we come across them, in the media or in our neighbourhoods.

Love and relationships aren’t just a nice thing to have, they need to be seen as a fundamental right. People with learning disabilities have as much right to independence as anyone else and understanding this is key to helping change attitudes. Lack of independence and choice still affects too many people living with learning disabilities and is something we have to make a high priority in the run up to the general election.

Increasing independence for adults with learning disabilities relies on longer-term care planning, promoting a better quality of life at all levels of the social care system, and changing public perceptions. The shift from institutionalised care towards independent living has helped but we still have a long way to go to break down assumptions and misconceptions about the role of relationships in the lives of people with learning disabilities.