A young Lisburn man with autism was caused to flee in distress after a fellow diner at a restaurant complained he didn’t want to be around “people like that”.
It was weeks before Graham Mackie had rebuilt his confidence enough to go back.
Graham’s tale, as told by his support worker Laura Fleming, emerged at a reception hosted by Lisburn’s Deputy Mayor, Councillor Andrew Ewing, one of the first to publicly back a newly launched campaign to combat discrimination and abuse directed at people with a learning disability or autism.
Aimed at raising awareness of the obstacles society places in the way of people with a learning disability, acquired brain injury or autistic spectrum condition, the What About Me?’ campaign was rolled out by the charity Positive Futures, one of whose staff was with Graham during his recent encounter.
“Another customer complained that he ‘did not want to be around people like that’ before becoming angry and kicking a door,” said support worker Laura. “Graham, who has autism, was distressed and had to leave.
“Graham is well known at the place where we were eating, and we’ve never had a problem before. He walks up and down the room before he relaxes enough to sit down, but this man took exception to it. It was several weeks before we were able to build up Graham’s confidence enough for him to go back.”
Positive Futures hopes its campaign will persuade councils, towns and businesses to think about people’s needs when dealing with customers, who, according to the charity’s Chief Executive, Agnes Lunny, can face everything from indifference at one end of the scale to physical violence at the other,
“It can come from strangers, professionals and even members of the person’s own family,” she said, noting that 82% of children with a learning disability are bullied at school while a third of people in the UK believe people with a learning disability can not live independently or hold down a job.
Positive Futures will be awarding a seal of approval and a certificate to businesses and organisations adopting best practice in catering for anyone with a learning disability, acquired brain injury or autistic spectrum condition; more informaiton on the ‘What about me?’ campaign is available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, the charity is aiming to recruit fundraising support groups around Northern Ireland; anyone interested should visit www.positive-futures.net or call Mariclare Gallagher on 028 9147 5720.