How to Engage People with Learning Disabilities in the World of Recycling

While there is no denying that we have made great strides when it comes to the exposure of recycling and waste prevention, it remains the case that certain actions and campaigns may occasionally be inaccessible for people with learning difficulties.

It is therefore vital that, when it comes to recycling and sustainable waste prevention, every possible step is taken to encourage social inclusion. This way, those with learning difficulties, or those who have had to work with a specialist education solicitor, are able to demonstrate positive engagement.

Here, we discuss some of the ways we can support those with learning disabilities to get engaged in recycling and understand its importance in our society. This can help us to understand some of the ways we can accommodate for specific learning disabilities when recycling. Take a look…

How Can We Engage People with Disabilities in the World of Recycling?

Closely Understand What We Mean by Learning Difficulties

Before we start to consider the ways we can encourage people with learning disabilities to be engaged in recycling, it’s important for us to understand exactly what we mean when we discuss ‘learning difficulties’. This allows for us to understand exactly who we are looking to support and the messages we can put across.

Someone with a learning disability will have a significant, lifelong condition that started before adulthood and which affects their development in certain ways. For instance, their learning disability may restrict their ability to:

  • Understand and comprehend certain information
  • Learn and develop new skills
  • Perform tasks independently
  • Balance their emotional state

While, of course, every person who has a learning disability is completely unique, the characteristics above are often shared. By understanding this, it becomes easier to tailor an approach that helps to effectively engage those with learning disabilities in the world of recycling.

Consider the Most Effective Written Communicative Methods

In order to effectively engage with people who have learning disabilities on any subject (not just recycling and sustainable waste disposal), it’s vitally important to consider how best to communicate certain actions, and what materials would be suitable for use.

For instance, the use of complex leaflets that include heavily detailed information, full of recycling jargon and complex vocabulary, are likely to be very inaccessible for those with learning disabilities, significantly reducing their ability to engage with the subject matter.

When deciding on appropriate written communication methods, there are various pointers that should help to mould the approach you take. Whether you’re planning to produce leaflets, posters or presentations:

  • Use plain, simple English
  • Use a simple synonym of a word where possible
  • Use concise sentences
  • Keep punctuation simple
  • Supplement text with clear, colourful images
  • Maintain consistency across texts

The precise type of written communications used to help people with learning disabilities to engage with recycling will often depend on various factors. These might include the scale of the project you may be looking to carry out, and how many people you’re looking to support.

Make the Environment Part of Everyday Conversation

Aside from educating people with learning disabilities through written methods, such as leaflets and posters, it’s equally, if not more, important to focus on naturally exposing them to the importance of recycling and the environment. It can often be the case that some people with learning difficulties respond more effectively when something is naturally integrated into everyday conversations.

So, why not do exactly that when it comes to the topic of recycling? By verbally discussing what recycling is, why it’s important and how it makes our world a better place, this can help to subconsciously embed a positive attitude.

It can also be a very useful tool when it comes to guiding someone with a learning disability on the most accessible habits they can implement in their everyday lives with regards to recycling – something we will discuss in detail shortly. 

Practical Life Skills Demonstrations

We specialise in autism in mainstream schools, inclusion of students with disabilities, education psychology, autism education, community building and training on inclusion.

Whenever it comes to engaging with someone with a learning disability about a subject they aren’t necessarily all that familiar with, it’s usually a very good idea to plan out practical life skills demonstrations that they can directly participate in.

Simply participating in waste prevention activities in a home environment, such as correctly separating recyclables, or demonstrating how to use a home composter, are great ways of engaging someone in recycling habits.

You could even build on this by encouraging organised trips which provide an extra incentive and aid the general learning process by providing practical, hands-on experience. For example, visits to recycling centres or landfill sites can provide excellent learning opportunities.

Encouraging Habits to Support Recycling Efforts

One of the keys to ensuring that people with learning disabilities continue to be engaged with recycling and understand its importance is to encourage the development of specific habits – ones which are very easy to pick up and maintain.

There are a number of potential ways you could do this. For instance, setting aside certain times of the day to focus on recycling, or turning the process into a fun chore.

How Else Can We Better Accommodate for Disabilities When Recycling?

It’s also important to consider how we can better accommodate for additional disabilities when it comes to recycling. Unfortunately, there are several potential barriers which prevent those with disabilities from being able to efficiently recycle.

For example, it’s worth considering the fact that anyone with a visual impairment may struggle to recycle, especially if certain measures are taken. In Coventry, braille stickers are handed out to visually impaired residents so that they can easily tell the difference between general waste and recycling bins.

We specialise in autism in mainstream schools, inclusion of students with disabilities, education psychology, autism education, community building and training on inclusion.

Physical disabilities can also present a number of issues which need to be accommodated for. While the design of recycling bins tends to differ between regions, some are much less accessible than others, which can cause several problems for someone with a physical disability – such as those that are restricted to wheelchairs.

By ensuring that recycling receptacles can be easily used by everyone (such as having smaller bins, or with wheels) we can make sure that everyone has equal opportunities to recycle.

Let’s Recycle Together

As you can see, there are plenty of barriers that may come in the way of those with physical and mental disabilities recycling. That said, with the help of some of the simple tips above, and by raising awareness, we can start to tackle these issues.

Recycling is something we can only achieve if we all do our part. In helping and encouraging those with disabilities to get involved through actionable measures, we can build a better future.


Photo credits: 

Photo 1 – Nick Fewings via Unsplash

Photo 2 – Pawel Czerwinski via Unsplash

Photo 3 – Sigmund via Unsplash

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