Press Release

Big Issue and Mencap break new ground with magazine compiled entirely by people with a learning disability

This week’s Big Issue, on sale today, has been co-produced by people with a learning disability.

Inside The Big Issue

  • This week’s Big Issue, on sale today, has been co-produced by people with a learning disability
  • 17– 23 June 2024 is Learning Disability Week, and the theme is ‘Do you see me?’, increasing awareness and visibility for people with a learning disability

Big Issue Group and Mencap, the learning disability charity, are delighted to announce that this week’s Big Issue, out today (Monday 17 June), breaks new ground as the first magazine to be created by and wholly feature people with a learning disability.

To mark this year’s Learning Disability Week – an annual celebration of people with a learning disability, their families and carers – all articles in the issue focus on the real-life experiences and achievements of people with a learning disability.

Mencap’s Myth Busters are a group of people who are living life with a learning disability and campaigning for change. A group of them have worked with the magazine’s editorial team to write features, create designs and collaborate on how to make the Big Issue more accessible to those with a learning disability. 

There are 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK, many of whom face barriers and inequalities in their daily lives. This year’s Learning Disability Week theme, ‘Do you see me?’, aims to ensure people with a learning disability are seen, heard and valued in society – whether in the doctor’s surgery, at work, in the voting booth or simply within their local community.

The 15+ contributors include:

  • CBeebies’ presenter, George Webster, who has written a letter to his younger self;
  • Campaigner Nigel Smith, speaking about his experience fighting cancer and his desire for the healthcare sector to make improvements for people with a learning disability and autism;
  • Medal winning Paralympian swimmer Jessica-Jane Applegate, discussing the barriers of having a hidden disability.

But according to new research carried out by Mencap, there is still much more work to do, especially in the public eye. A quarter of the general population (25%) say they have never seen people with a learning disability represented in the media, and those that have estimate they only see someone with a learning disability in the media once every seven to eight weeks. Almost half (48%) think that disabled people are not represented enough in the media.

The high cost of healthcare and additional support, combined with limits on opportunities for employment, also mean that people with a learning disability are more likely to fall into poverty.[1]

Health and wellbeing is one of five strategic pillars which the Big Issue Group has identified in order to achieve its mission of dismantling poverty. It’s hoped this collaboration with Mencap will help change perceptions – the first step being to feature more people with a learning disability in the media to help increase acceptance and reduce stigma.

Mencap’s Chief Executive, Jon Sparkes says:

“This powerful collaboration with the Big Issue puts people with a learning disability at the heart of every story. We are told that there is very little representation of people with a learning disability in the media, and we are trying to change that by working alongside one of the UK’s most recognised social enterprises to put their lives at the front and centre of every page.

“This publication of the Big Issue is a stark reminder of the incredible things that can be achieved despite many societal barriers.

“We hope this issue will inspire people to support our cause and learn more about the amazing people in their community and throughout the UK, who have a learning disability.” 

Editor of the Big Issue, Paul McNamee says: “People speak frequently about hearing from those who are often marginalised in society. At the Big Issue, we believe in giving them a platform to tell their stories. Our collaboration with Mencap is yet another way we’re doing this – breaking new ground by putting this week’s Big Issue in the hands of people with a learning disability.

“It’s not about paying lip-service, but rather wholeheartedly allowing a platform and offering assistance if needed. These fantastic contributors have created an incredible edition of our magazine. We strive constantly to challenge and offer opportunities to those who don’t always have them. This Big Issue is something to be incredibly proud about. As ever, you can pick it up from your local vendor or buy online via bigissue.com.”

Mencap Myth Buster Aisha Edwards, said; “I really enjoyed working on the magazine as I got to meet so many different people and people like me (who have a learning disability). My favourite part was sharing ideas. It’s so important to have a magazine like this that showcases our work, recognises us and includes us from the get go.”

The Big Issue have also redesigned the publication to make it more accessible to people with a learning disability. This will include a slight altered colour scheme, including accessible colour combinations for the greater contrast between text and background, to help readability. Larger-scale fonts have also been used as well as the inclusion of easy-read pullout boxes.

This week’s special edition Big Issue is now on sale. Find your local vendor to buy a copy, or subscribe online, at bigissue.com.

How else can I get involved with Learning Disability Week?

  1. Read and learn: find out more at Mencap, including the stories of Myth Busters.
  2. Volunteer: There are loads of ways you can get involved as a volunteer and make a huge difference in the life of someone with a learning disability.
  3. Campaign: make a stand with on issues ensuring people with a learning disability have equal rights and do not face discrimination. Find out more about Mencap’s campaigns here.
  4. Donate to charities: Show your support to a learning disability charity – you can donate here.

[1] https://www.iriss.org.uk/resources/esss-outlines/disability-poverty-transitions

Support your local Big Issue vendor

If you can’t get to your local vendor every week, subscribing directly to them online is the best way to support your vendor. Your chosen vendor will receive 50% of the profit from each copy and the rest is invested back into our work to create opportunities for people affected by poverty.
Vendor martin Hawes

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