In 2001, the Government published the white paper Valuing People (Department of Health, 2001) that set out the government’s commitment to improving the lives of people with a learning disability.
Valuing People defines those with a learning disability as having
- a significantly reduced ability to understand new or complex information, to learn new skills, with
- a reduced ability to cope independently
... which started before adulthood, with a lasting effect on development.
Many people with learning disabilities also have physical and/or sensory impairments. The definition covers adults with autism who also have learning disabilities, but not those with a higher level autistic spectrum disorder.
Valuing People points out that this definition encompasses people with a broad range of disabilities, but the focus should be on the premise that people with learning disabilities are people first and we focus on what people can do, rather than what they cannot do. People with learning disabilities can lead full and rewarding lives, as many already do.
Valuing People (DH, 2001) played a significant part in changing the lives of people with learning disabilities, ensuring they have choice and control, equality and independence and are part of their local community. However, there is still a way to go to ensure that people with learning disabilities have the same aspirations and life chances as other members of the community.