Right to choose

Brian Booth, Shaun Webster, Durbali Roy, John Tattersall and Agnes Briggs, parents with learning disabilities from CHANGE, a leading UK national equal rights organisation led by and for people with learning disabilities, review the DVD Right to choose produced by Speakup, in partnership with Steps and Sure Start. Price: £85 (£24 for advocacy groups). Available from www.speakup.org.uk

Supported by Department of Health funding, the new Right to choose DVD aims to guide people with learning disabilities through the process of becoming a parent and how to get the best support when needed.

Speakup employed Vicky, an expert parent with a learning disability, to develop the project, as well as work with parent groups and partner organisations throughout England.

The three different sections on the main menu screen were clear to see with good photographs for each one and were easy to select. There was a clear accessible number for each section. It would have been better if the introduction section was an option on the main menu too, as this was missed by accident the first time the DVD was watched. There was no option for subtitles or British Sign Language. Also, on the packaging there was no running time, which could be a problem.

Sharing experiences

The introduction scene showed lots of different people with learning disabilities and how they felt when they were pregnant. It was a very nice way to introduce the DVD. People related to how they felt. Some of the group felt that the introduction was biased towards mums’ points of views, and there are not enough fathers being represented.

In section one, ‘You’re Pregnant’, the narrator was very good and clear and used easy words which were easy to understand. The reviewers were very happy that people with learning disabilities were talking about their own experiences. Some of the reviewers felt that this section “painted a bit of a rosy picture” of people with learning disabilities being pregnant and gave a false impression that people with learning disabilities always keep their children. Some of the group wondered if abortion should be mentioned as a choice in this section.

Help and support

Section two provides information about the people and services that can help and support you. Some of the group thought it was good that it said you could change your support staff if you wanted and it was very helpful to learn more about what the different support staff did. However, some members of the group thought it was inaccurate that you can change your social worker, and pointed out not everyone with learning disabilities has a social worker.

The reviewers were very disappointed that accessible information for people with learning disabilities wasn’t mentioned or shown. The only information shown was the inaccessible Birth to 5 book. There are a number of accessible books available for parents or parents-to-be with learning disabilities: these could be shown and promoted so that parents can know to ask for them. One of the group said, “I became a dad when I was 19. I was terrified. There were no accessible books or information that helped me back then.”

Some of the group thought it would have helped to show antenatal classes.

Section three offers information on help and support that is available. The reviewing group thought this section was too fast and should give more detail about who can support you – maybe listing useful agencies and contacts at the end. It would have been useful to include information about asking what benefits you can get.

Overall, the group thought the DVD was well made and a useful resource for parents with learning disabilities. It gave useful information in a clear and accessible way that was easy to understand. One reviewer said, “It gave good advice on what support and services are out there.”


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