A charity has called on nightclubs to become more accessible in light of “damning” research showing one in four young people with a learning disability has been bullied by members of the public on a night out.
Mencap says the music industry needs to do more to eliminate the problem as those aged 18-35 with a learning disability become increasingly isolated.
Rosanna Trudgian, head of campaigns and activism, said: “People with a learning disability have a right to a night out like anyone else.
“But the reality is if you are young and have a learning disability you’re likely to be blocked out of something as universal as music due to fear of staff or public attitudes.”
A Mencap survey of 300 young people with learning disabilities found that while more than 80% said they want to go to more concerts, one in three have been scared by staff at a gig.
An additional 12.5% of those asked also said they had been turned away from a venue for having a learning disability, with 2.6% reporting this “often” happened.
Kelsey Ramsey, who has a learning disability, has been left “afraid” of going to gigs after a series of incidents where she was bullied.
“When I was volunteering at a music festival recently a man called me a retard every time he saw me, it really hurt my feelings and made me feel unwelcome,” the 24-year-old said.
“When you have a learning disability people look at you and judge how you act and how you look, so that can stop me from going out because I worry people are going to make fun of me.”
Ramsey explained that as a woman in her mid-twenties, being unable to go to clubs and concerts has left her feeling alone.
Research shows that a third of young people with a learning disability spend less than an hour outside their home on a Saturday.
“Lots of youth clubs for people with a learning disability cut off at a certain age, so what are you meant to do then? You are just left sitting at home doing nothing,” Ramsey added.
“I want to be able to go out and do the same things as other people my age but most of the time it feels impossible.”
Mencap has now called on bars and clubs to train their staff in learning disability awareness and has started a drive to recruit volunteers for their Sidekick scheme.
The programme connects people with learning disabilities to local volunteers who have the same interests so they can go out and do the things that they love.
Charity worker Trudgian added: ”Signing up to Mencap’s Sidekick scheme is a great way that gig goers can help, by meeting up with people with a learning disability and going with them to gigs and clubs; allowing people to get out, see their favourite band and feel safe.”