Today the three main political party leaders have signed up to show their support for Mencap's Hear my voice campaign. They are David Cameron from the Conservatives, Ed Miliband from Labour and Nick Clegg from the Liberal Democrats.
Hear my voice is about making sure people with a learning disability's voices are being heard by politicians in the run up to the General Election on 7 May this year. We want to make sure people are not excluded and have the opportunity to have their say about the issues that impact them.
There are 5 million people in the UK who have a learning disability or who have a loved one with a learning disability. This is 10% of all the people who can vote. So our voices matter and our voices could make a big difference in May.
I think it's fantastic that the main party leaders are showing their support and have said that they are listening to the challenges people with a learning disability and their families face.
I hope their support will encourage other MPs and candidates across all the parties to show they are listening to their constituents with a learning disability. More than 250 MPs and candidates have already done this by signing up to the Hear my voice campaign. I hope this commitment will mean positive changes in the future because people with a learning disability face terrible discrimination and exclusion every day.
Over half of disabled people have been victims of hate crime because of their disability. 1,200 people with a learning disability die avoidably every year in hospital because or poor healthcare and discrimination. And one in four people with a learning disability spend less than an hour outside their home every day.
People with a learning disability and their families have been sharing their experiences on the Hear my voicewebsite. I have read some people's stories, who are from the party leaders constituencies. Their stories are about things like discrimination and fighting for support from social services.
I am pleased that the party leaders have listened to the voices of the people they represent and that they are committed to making a positive change for them in the future.
The party leaders have also said they will produce Easy Read manifestos so that people with a learning disability are more included and can understand what each party's plans and policies are. This will help people with a learning disability to decide who they want to vote for on Election Day.
I'm looking forward to reading the Easy Read manifestos and finding out what plans the different parties have. I'm particularly interested to see how they will include people with a learning disability in their work now that they have said that they are listening to the issues that matter to us.
I have a wife and three children. Any changes to education, the healthcare system, welfare or transport will directly affect me and my family. That is why I must have the chance to use my vote for the political party that I think will do the best job for us as a family.
Nick Clegg ran a hustings event in his Sheffield Hallam constituency and people with a learning disability got to ask him about how local changes will affect them. I'm hoping that David Cameron and Ed Miliband soon commit to do the same. Hear our voices - they matter.
This is what the three party leaders have said:
David Cameron, Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party, said:
"My son Ivan was born with a profound disability and I still remember how helpless Sam and I felt when he was born. It was like beginning a journey we never planned to take without a map, and we only coped thanks to the love and support of our friends and family as well as some incredible NHS and social services. It is really important that as well as providing the support that people with learning disabilities and their families need, MPs of all parties listen to the challenges that they face. That is why I am backing the Royal Mencap Society campaign to support people with a learning disability and allow them to share their stories."
Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said:
"I want to build a fairer society so that everyone has the opportunity to get on in life. I have had the opportunity of attending an event in my own constituency where I heard from people with a learning disability about what changes would make a real difference to them. Because the only way to truly understand what shapes the lives of people who have a learning disability, is to listen to what they have to say."
Ed Miliband, Leader of the Labour Party, said:
"Disabled people make up one in six UK citizens, and play a vital and valued role in our society. Their views and ideas about what matters in their lives and in our communities are crucial. I hope many people will be involved in Mencap's Hear My voice campaign, so the views and opinions of disabled people are heard loud and clear in the run up to the general election. I assure you Labour will be listening."