Learning disabilities: Mencap battles to combat bias

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Five years after changing its name, Mencap, the charity for learning disabilities, says there is "still a long way to go" before the public and media stops discriminating against those they support.

The name was changed from the mentally handicapped because learning disabilities was a less discriminatory and more accurate term. But in a recent Mencap survey almost 50 per cent of the public still described the charity as being for the mentally handicapped and 13 per cent believed Mencap to be a mental-health charity.

This demonstrates a large degree of misunderstanding around learning disability, says the charity. "People with learning disabilities are discriminated against in employment, when on holiday, through leisure and with a variety of services such as housing, the NHS and the criminal justice system. Only with real understanding of the issues can society hope to end discrimination as we near the end of the 20 th century," said Fred Heddell, Mencap's chief executive. "We still have a long way to go to change the public's and media's perceptions of what people with learning disabilities can achieve."