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Disability Equality: the voice of a movement

While I think we can all agree every person with disability is an individual; as a group people with disabilities in general face a specific type of disadvantage that non-disabled people may not be subjected to. It is the character this disadvantage that is key to equality theory. a Disability Equality theory arose from the ideas of the disability rights movement, which like many others, was formed by a number of disabled people keen to stand up for their human rights. While not every person will agree or join this group, it is very much like the women’s movement insofar as make up and allegiance is concerned. The important point is that for professionals and their organisations the voice of the movement represents the best available voice of authority for matters relating to disability. As an individual, who happens to be a person with disabilities, I speak in the context of conferences as a member- not as an individual. To be clear I define the conversation as a public one, different from a personal one. This is critical, because as a leader (with a small l) I speak on behalf of a group – with mindful acknowledgement for individual diversity within it.

My role, in this public context as facilitator, is to help others understand the ideas that many have signed up to over the past half century. Ideas that have empowered and liberated by describing a particular type of disadvantage- named today in many places as disablism. Like feminism, racism and homophobia, disabilism is the character of the oppression facing people with disabilities. While many understand that named individuals might have different ways of expressing the situation they face, as professionals they need to be guided by theory in order to be able to answer the question: “am I accountable to people with disabilities in my practice?”. Being caring and generous to individuals doesn’t cut it when it comes to organising working practice within the larger institution. There are barriers that need addressing that go beyond the impact of personalisation- systems, policies and procedures that require critical evaluation.

That is why with regard to tackling disabilism more specifically, many practitioners have come to recognise how important Disability Equality Training is to the strategic aspects of their work. While Person Centred Planning is vital in assuring individuals receive the most personalised support possible, Disability Equality theory delivers on key messages from a shared voice of people with disabilities. Disability Equality is the acknowledgement specific privilege at systemic levels that enables teams and organisations to develop a more strategic path for change on inequality. To this end this session focuses on the distinction between victimisation, discrimination and systemic disadvantage.

The session outlines the central idea of the models of disability, explaining its character and its application to organisation and procedures. This encourages people to think about how they can talk about disability discrimination in the context of their work. The conversation should enable professionals to speak more clearly about the impact of disadvantage. It will encourage people to think about the effect of language and media on different groups of individual. Identify ways of speaking about disadvantage in order to demonstrate respect to individuals, while exposing unfairness and injustice. Think about personal action they could take to raise professional agency and thereby promote involvement and coproduction at different levels of their organisations.

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