People with Learning Disabilities Having Relationships
For Learning Disability Week 2016, we are talking about friendships and relationships. Some CHANGE volunteers share experiences of friendships, going on dates and some of the barriers people with learning disabilities face.
"My boyfriend is very caring and we make each other laugh."
We have relationships but often non learning disabled people, like our carers and support staff, stop us from making our own decisions about our relationships.
In our care homes we are asked questions and made to explain when and why we want to spend time alone with our friends or partners.
It makes us feel embarrassed and cross.
Barriers to having relationships
"The staff do not let my partner stay the night. It is unthinkable. This makes me feel segregated. I am not treated like an adult."
"Sometimes a support worker has to go with me on dates which means I cannot have any privacy."
"If I want to stay overnight with my partner, I have to give his care home many weeks notice."
For some of us only our friends of the same sex are allowed to stay over. Care staff have the power to decide when and how we spend time with our friends and our partners.
We are treated like children not adults.
Ways forward that respect our human rights
We have the right to make decisions about our lives, just like everybody else.
This means having the power to make decisions about our relationships like if we want to have sex or go out and spend time together.
To make sure this happens, we need to:
1. Train support staff and managers about equality and human rights so that we can work together to change attitudes. We want people with learning disabilities to be free to have different kinds of relationships.
2. Ask staff to sign a contract when they start working with us. This is to make sure they agree to support our right to independence, to love and to have relationships in which they respect our rights to privacy.
Our message to staff
We are human beings. We have friends and partners just like you. We want love and intimacy just like you. We should have the power to make decisions about our own lives and relationships just like you.