Mencap Cymru has found that people with a learning disability are less likely to be in any kind of relationship than people without a disability. The findings from its National Lottery funded project, ‘Our Social Networks’ will be revealed at a ‘pop-up museum’ in the Chapter Arts Centre during Learning Disability Week which runs from 17th – 23rd June.

The Mencap Cymru team conducted almost thirty oral histories with people discussing their friendships and romantic relationships.. The stories detail the positive and negative aspects of navigating love and friendship when you have a learning disability.

Wayne Crocker, Director of Mencap Cymru says: “The team focused on uncovering tales of people with a learning disability and exploring some of the barriers that people face, as well as looking into people’s attitudes to the idea of disabled people having intimate relationships. Generally they are not seen as people able to express themselves sexually. We want to help increase awareness and start a conversation around how we can all better support people with a learning disability to have active social lives end express themselves.”

Richard Bellamy, Head of the National Lottery Heritage Fund in Wales, says: “Most people take relationships and romantic relationships for granted, and perhaps don’t realise what navigating them can be like if you have a learning disability. By showcasing stories that are often untold in our society, this important project has helped raise awareness and improve people’s understanding of the everyday experiences of people with learning disabilities.”

Learning Disability Week will focus on the stigma that still surrounds learning disabilities and will look to tackle discrimination and lack of inclusion with a focus on friendships and relationships. Events during the week include a “Smutslam”[1]– a sex-related storytelling event – and “Disastrous Dates”, a chance for the public to share funny stories about their worst ever dates. The week culminates in an evening event at the Tramshed in Cardiff featuring Drag Syndrome, the UK’s first Drag act featuring performers with a learning disability.  The innovative drag show features kings and queens who have Down’s Syndrome, some of whom are already experienced stage performers. Tickets can be booked by visiting www.tramshedcardiff.com

[1] A smut slam is a type of open mic based event. It is fast-paced storytelling about real life experiences. It  was first created by Cameryn Moore, an award-winning playwright/performer, sex activist and educator.