Potential and Possibility: people with complex disabilities tell us what needs to change

Our latest research reveals what people with complex disabilities want to change to improve their lives in the UK.

“I just want to be acknowledged and accepted and for people to understand how difficult life is for us. We just want to live normal independent lives like everyone else but to do that we need help along the way.”

At Sense, we know how important it is for every disabled person to be able to reach their potential. There are 1.6 million people with complex disabilities in the UK, and none of them should be left out of life.

We spoke to over 1,500 people with complex disabilities to find out about their experiences, what matters to them and what barriers are in their way.

The results show us how we can pave the way to a better future for everyone.

We want everyone to see the potential and possibility in the lives of people with complex disabilities, and to do what they can to change things for the better.

What does Potential and Possibility mean?

“I never get services to support me because I am apparently not a nice neat peg. I tick lots of boxes and those boxes do not go together which means I cannot have autism services because I am not just autistic and I cannot have physical disability services because I am not just physically disabled and I cannot have advocacy because I have a degree. I am stuck if I am honest and sick of being a ping pong ball!”

When we asked disabled participants what they would like to do in the future, to find out what Potential and Possibility means to them.

Many people with complex disabilities shared that they would like to develop their relationships and friendships. This isn’t surprising given the high levels of loneliness which we also found in this research.

  • 70% of people would like to develop their friendships and relationships with others.
  • 62% would like to spend time on their hobbies.
  • 60% would like to gain more independence.

Many people with complex disabilities told us that they feel very supported by their family and friends to achieve their goals.

However, 60% of people do not feel supported by the national government to achieve their goals, and just under half (47%) do not feel supported by their local council.

Lisa’s story

LIsa Simpson, a woman with medium-length brown hair and a white jumper, peering at the back of a digital camera

“My journey into the dance sector has been unique and unconventional. When I was 12, I was invited to a dance event at the local mainstream school. This was the first time I found myself wishing I could dance on stage. But, deep down, I thought it wouldn’t ever be possible because of my disability.

“Many people with complex disabilities have not yet been given the opportunity to realise their creative potential.”

Read about how Lisa achieved her ambition to be a choreographer with the right support in place.

About this research

As part of this innovative project we completed a survey, interviews and polling with 1,585 people with complex disabilities.

This included people who receive support from Sense and people who live in our residential services, and we focussed on making our research methods accessible to allow us to get the opinions of as many people as possible. Not every person answered every question, and some people needed help from a support worker, family member or friend to take part.

If you have any questions about the research please contact [email protected].