Maria is the training director for Wideaware who provide disability equality training online and face-to-face. She is a qualified access adviser and has worked in the UK, US and Italy as a trainer, project manager and employment placement worker for people with learning disabilities.
Maria is severely deaf, wears hearing aids and lipreads.
My name is Maria Zedda and I’m here to recruit you!
I saw the film and decided to borrow Harvey Milk’s powerful call to action because I’m not a politician, therefore I needed one sentence that would sum up my sense of urgency for the widespread need for disability equality training. Here I’d like to explain why.
What do I want to recruit people for? To stand up for disabled people’s right to access to education, employment, public life and services. Why would anyone care about disabled people? Because if disabled people can access a world free of prejudice and stigma and access barriers, then everyone else can.
Harvey Milk said about young gay people:
You have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us’es, the us’es will give up.
This 1977 speech is so relevant today as its principles are universal. About disability equality, the right training will show teachers how they can better support a disabled young child entering education, for example. We can do the same for young disabled people getting into university, or their first work experience. We can help spread awareness as to how to make our society more inclusive for disabled parents or carers, siblings and co-workers, for older disabled people or those who have been recently disabled.
How? Through disability equality training. We can show you how to confidently meet the needs of any disabled person, and by default make sure your school, workplace or service is more inclusive to everyone.
Some say that in times of recession the training budget is one of the first costs cut by companies, the public and third sector. Yet, with online training, organisations save labour hours, hospitality and travel costs, and they can better tap into the potential of their disabled employees and purchasing power of their disabled customers.
There is the potential of training 70,000 people who have volunteered to help in the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics Games in London. Can you imagine what a ripple effect this will have, not only in the Capital but also in the country? All of them who will eventually progress into other things will take with them the disability equality training received wherever they go. A skill for life.
It’s absolutely vital that this training is delivered effectively and consistently by disabled trainers and disabled-led organisations with the right skills and credibility, and not simply by those claiming to represent disabled people. Nothing about us without us is still the most relevant call from the disability rights movement.
And in times where suicide of disabled people is deemed to be a reputable alternative and extreme-right politicians, adverse to diversity and inclusion, get elected to the European Parliament, it’s even more important to try our hardest to spread awareness of the right of disabled people to inclusion and the benefits that this brings not only for them but the whole of society.
Would you like your organisation to be more inclusive? Let us show you how. It does not matter if it’s me or other disability training providers: as long the training is credible let us recruit you. Because if you include disabled people, you include everybody.
I think you’re possible over emphasising training as a solution. Training is an ingredient of an overall dish called equality. Let me develop the analogy. What makes a good risotto? Some would say that it is the rice; it has to be cooked for just the right amount of time. But a risotto without a good stock isn’t much of a risotto and if the risotto is served cold not everybody will like it; if you eat the risotto in a place where the table is dirty or the cutlery is broken, well the meal isn’t enjoyable. And can you really enjoy risotto without a good glass of Borolo? What about who else is at the table with you, aren’t the best meals those that with share with friends, where the conversation flows, where the memory of the meal is underpinned by an excellent risotto and so much more?
So if training is delivered without all the other ingredients alongside it, a commitment to change, organisational leadership, a willingness to tackle the dirty table and make sure that the cutlery is fit for purpose all we’re left with is a hunger for something to get better – no tools to deliver change.
David S 18 June 09
you are absolutely right: training alone is not enough and those who need it the most are often those who commission training in the first place!
My desire to ‘recruit’ for the cause of Disability Equality certainly starts with the decision-makers of our society: ministers, civil servants, councillors, directors and those who can do something about addressing access barriers, commission inclusive public works and reforms.
But, I cannot forget the words of Barak Obama: that change has to happen ‘from the ground up’ also.
We need talented civil rights champions who are willing to step up to the plate and be in the public arena, to rouse interest in the cause and show how disability equality is everyone’s equality. If the people are on our side, then change at the top will have to happen.
In the meantime, hopefully disability bloggers and news websites will keep on inviting public debate…
My hope is that the Olympics in London are seen as an opportunity to educate the country and the world about disability equality. And, that by the time the Paralympic Games have taken place everyone will be much more aware of disabled people’s rights, ability and contribution to society.
Why not hope that the UK really will be one of the most disability-inclusive countries in the world by 2025? With hard work, many hopes are realised after all – and fortune favours the prepared!
I believe the key to social change is to raise awareness of the lived experience of all people.
Raising the profile of marginalised communities and reframing negative perceptions of difference will result in a more inclusive, insightful and enlightened society which can only be of benefit to all.
Have been a advocate for fairness for the disabled for some time now, in particular discrimination and Human Rights issues.
I must admit when I first clicked the Google link to your blog my initial thought was ‘‘here we go yet another lip service site!’‘
I am however pleasantly surprised and echo Xenia’s comments above ‘‘raise awareness of the lived experience.’‘ And this is key I believe!
For example when upon occasion I’ve written to employers and organisations over issues of disability discrimination they are far too quick to deny any accusations. My argument is how would they know what disability discrimination is if they’re not disabled!
Great comment Xenia – I’ll borrow that phrase if I may!