In the 29th year of noting Disabled People Worldwide, International Day of Disabled People 2022, this year we focus on access and in this article, it will particularly focus on community.
When you think about disabled people and access your mind might immediately go to, ramps and lifts, but it covers so much more.
I have the advantage of being around and having many conversations with disabled people, as well as being a disabled woman and having disabled children, it is frustrating to know how easy it would be to have my community in all spaces.
As most of my paid job is engagement, I wonder why we talk about needs in the community, but don’t ask the disabled community enough?
Why do we try and create separate spaces specifically rather than make sure we are also included in the other activities on offer? Why is it disability issues always need a separate meeting rather than be put on existing agendas?
How can we learn to be better if we aren’t included in conversations with disabled people? I can say with the whole of my chest, we aren’t doing enough. It seems to be OK that the attendance of disabled people in community meetings is low or it never seems to be noted.
From my own perspective we don’t adapt meetings to make them welcome. Using captions on virtual meetings is important, using plain text and less flowery language for those who may not be able to process a lot of information or use a screen reader is important on invitations.
If there are face to face meetings, let us know if there is a suitable toilet, if the lifts work, if the room is easy to manoeuvre around and always consider these things when booking a space. I know if I don’t know these things, I am not going to be confident enough to show up in the first place.
Parents this year were very vocal about how out of all the summer holiday events put on, there was a very small percentage for disabled children. Across all the Breeze events in Leeds there were four and they weren’t in every quarter of Leeds.
Is this acceptable considering the jump in diagnosis in children for various disabilities? It sends a message, whether intentional or not that their play and holiday activities matter less.
I don’t know if it is fear of doing something wrong, or that it seems like an extra job to make sure things are accessible (the phrase additional needs doesn’t help that) or if it is a concern that it will cost a bunch of money, sometimes those things may be true, but if we don’t try to include all the community can we really claim that we are representing/doing our best by the community?
If 1 in 4 people have a disability and you don’t see many disabled people engaging your service, you aren’t doing enough.
The best way to improve this, is to simply ask. To make sure at everything you do there is more than one disabled person involved. Call out for those in the community to come and tell you how you could improve and what barriers they face accessing services. Asking one disabled person or someone with one type of disability isn’t enough, even if it ticks the box.
Whilst you’re here, can we ask a favour?
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