This week is Learning Disability Week, running from 20th to the 26th of June. This campaign strives to eliminate stigma and discrimination in education, organised by Mencap, a charity that is passionate about making the world a better place for those with a learning disability. The theme for 2022 is Living Life with a Learning Disability and the issues many people continue to face, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this blog, we will be reflecting on this theme through the evolution of a popular illustration used to highlight inequality. These images perfectly encapsulate the challenges people living with a learning disability still face. We will reflect on these illustrations together, thinking about where our provision currently stands and what changes we can make going forward.
Created by Craig Froehle, the original illustration was drawn during the US Elections in 2012 to show different perspectives on equality. The illustration depicts three people of various heights, trying to watch a baseball game over a fence.
In the left panel, the three individuals are given equal support. However, the third figure is still unable to see over the fence, whilst the first figure did not require help in the first place. The right panel depicts each individual being given support which is appropriate to their needs, so that every one of them can watch the baseball game. This illustrates the difference between equality and equity and the impact this can have on marginalised groups.
Since then, there have been many variations of this illustration, reflecting on the different ways in which inequality can manifest.
This variation of the illustration adds a third panel – reality. What this seeks to illustrate is the reality that giving everyone the help they need is not always a simple task. Those that are least in need of help often have access to the most support, depriving the individuals that need it the most.
Finally, in this third version, created by clinical psychology professor, David Murphy, there is another layer added to the illustration – inclusion. This shows that all barriers to participation have been removed, ensuring that everyone can get involved with the game, valued as an equal on the pitch.
From these illustrations, we can see how our understanding of equality has evolved over time. Whilst treating everyone the same sounds fair initially, we know that this can perpetuate a culture in which individuals facing different challenges and circumstances remain stuck on the outside, unable to achieve their full potential.
This Learning Disability Week, consider what actions you can take to build a culture of inclusion at your school, so that all pupils are celebrated and given the support they need to thrive and succeed. Visit the Mencap website to learn more about the experiences of individuals with learning disabilities and find out more about the part you can play in creating a fairer society.