Learning disability charity Leeds Mencap is celebrating its 60th birthday with a brand new exhibition entitled “the history of learning disabilities in Leeds”, due to take place at the Leeds City Museum for two weeks this month.
The charity, which is based in East End Park, has been delivering services and activities for children and adults with learning disabilities, along with their families and carers since 1953.
Leeds Mencap currently support over 300 families a week and offer a range of activities and care from social groups to parent support, residential care to a dance group.
There are an estimated 14,000 individuals throughout Leeds with learning disabilities and this is set to increase to 14 per cent of the population by 2021.
Nothing with us; without us will investigate the changes of definitions, community care, institutions, stereotypes and perceptions through the past and the future.
The exhibition has been co-ordinated by Leeds Mencap, alongside students from the University of Huddersfield and individuals with learning disabilities from across the city.
Parts of the exhibition will also be able to be seen online at www.leedsmencap.org.uk
Michael Duffy, who has Aspergers and was involved within the exhibition, said:
“I’m really pleased I was able to be part of this exhibition. It was really interesting to see how people have been treated in the past and I only hope things will improve in the future.”
A parent at Leeds Mencap said:
“This exhibition is a great opportunity for us as a city to put forward the truth of what it is like to have learning disabilities, and the need to remove stereotypes and prejudices.
“There is still so much more we can do to improve the quality of life of disabled families and this exhibition presents us with the perfect opportunity!”
The exhibition, which is accessible to all, invites visitors to look back into the past and consider what it might have been like to reside in nearby Meanwood Hospital, or have a learning disability in the 1950s.
At the exhibition you can also see a lockable shoe that was used at a nearby institution to stop inpatients absconding or creating harm to themselves.
There is also a wealth of material from Meanwood Hospital itself and the Leeds Mencap archives.
Visitors will also be able to listen to stories both modern and past about learning disabilities and are encouraged to get involved in the exhibition and tell us what they hope the future will be for those with learning disabilities.
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Fiona Spiers, head of HLF Yorkshire and the Humber, who supported the exhibition, said:
“Clearly the success of All Our Stories has reinforced the fact that we are indeed a nation of story tellers and that we want to explore and dig deeper into our past and discover more about what really matters to us.
“This is exactly what the grant will do for the social history of learning disabilities in Leeds project as they embark on a real journey of discovery.”
The exhibition will be open until September 22.
Helen Clarke, area business manager for Barclays Business Bank, said:
“Leeds Mencap is an inspirational organisation providing much needed care to children and young people with learning disabilities.
“It’s been a delight to work with such a professional team and this exhibition charts the huge improvements that have been made over the years for people with disabilities and their families.”
For full opening hours please check the Museum website www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries or call 0113 224 3732.
In addition to the exhibition the charity is also encouraging people to get involved in their six-tea parties to help celebrate the 60th anniversary.
Work places, friends, families and neighbours are encouraged to get together and raise a cup to local people with learning disabilities and help the charity reach their target of 60 tea parties throughout the course of the year.