About the Observatory

The Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory is funded by the Scottish Government to generate evidence and build understanding of the causes of poor health and health inequalities experienced by people with learning disabilities and people with autism.

What does the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory do?

The Observatory contributes to health improvement by providing information and data on the health and healthcare of people with learning disabilities and people with autism in Scotland. We turn this information and data into meaningful health intelligence for practitioners, commissioners, policymakers and the wider community.

Our vision is that people with learning disabilities, of all ages, have access to evidence-informed health, care and services and that they do not experience preventable health inequalities.

To make this a reality, we will generate internationally excellent, multi-disciplinary and actionable research that contributes to building a better understanding of the multiple determinants of health and wellbeing for people with learning disabilities.

Through our programme of research, we will:

  • Increase awareness among stakeholders of the determinants of health for people with learning disabilities
  • Influence policy, service and practice development
  • Inform development of service models and interventions
  • Collaborate with external stakeholders to support translation of evidence into policy and practice

For more detailed information about this work, please take a look at our research page.

In this short video, the researchers at the Observatory talk about the inequalities experienced by people with learning disabilities and how their work is informing policy to deliver change.

The Observatory Team


Our team of researchers are drawn from diverse backgrounds including medicine, social sciences, public health and health informatics.


Policy and legislation


As a strategic delivery partner of the Scottish Government's learning disabilities policy team the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory will work collaboratively with people with learning disabilities and people with autism, as well as families, carers and other policy teams to help deliver the goals of health improvement and equality outlined in national policy.



The Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory will post regular blogs from the team and our partners.

What are learning disabilities?


As with everyone else people with learning disabilities are all different. Individual experiences and opportunities at different points in life can impact on peoples' skills and abilities in different ways. However there are times when it is really important to clearly define 'learning disabilities'. For example when these definitions describe who can and can't access a particular service or who a research study is about.

Learning takes longer for a person with learning disabilities. People have learning disabilities from birth, or develop them during infancy or childhood. A person with learning disabilities needs additional support with learning whilst at school, with some daily activities at school and as they live through their adult life. Some definitions of learning disabilities also require the person to have an intelligence quotient less than 70.

Our reports and publications discuss these issues in the context of different approaches to finding out more information about the population with learning disabilities.