Building Inclusive Organisations
In the financial climate that we’re actually in now my biggest advice would be to produce your information in Easy Read and have a policy of, if people want something in jargon format, they ask for it. If every Disabled People’s Organisation adopted that policy they’d be sending an education message to the funders and other organisations and government departments. But they’d also actually, in these difficult times still be passing on information that is important.
Disabled People need certain levels of support before they do their day to day activities. So for instance you can’t start a conference at 9 o’clock when people are not getting out of their homes at 9 o’clock. So you probably would have to start the conference after 10 o’clock. Which may not at this present moment be what people are expecting, but this should be what it is so we can create an inclusive society. In terms of access and places for events, in terms of material for these conferences and events, we should get to a point where we understand that bringing a BSL interpreter, or printing in large fonts, or creating hearing loops for people to participate is not an add-on, but that is the reality of the situation. So there’s still a lot more work to do and it’s important that we carry on doing this work to get that message across to the point where it becomes standard measure rather than we'll help you. Nobody wants help. Disabled people need support not help.
People First Self Advocacy is a Disabled People's Organisation run by people with learning difficulties.
People First Self Advocacy were the first group that actually started to employ people with learning difficulties in proper, paid jobs. With the right support people with learning difficulties can work. They are eager to actually do a job but if you haven’t got the support, you’re not going to be able to do the best you want to do.
At People First staff are supported to do their jobs by support workers.
It's the workers that say what goes on. When we do our jobs, it’s down to me to say yes or no, isn’t it? So if I’m not sure, that's why sometimes we come to support workers and say 'I think I’m there but I’m not quite sure'. Sometimes it's that little bit of leeway to clarify.
It’s a hard job because you actually have to know what the person with learning difficulties access needs are. Put that information into a format so that they can make a decision. It’s a challenge being a support worker at People First.
Olivia is the Diversity Officer with People First. She identifies herself as a transsexual person with learning difficulties.
I go out and tell people about diversity and help them to get their voice heard. You know, make them as equal as other people. To make them aware that everyone’s different but everyone is still equal as everybody else.
I was born as a man a boy as a child and I grew up in to a man, but that's what I feel like. There’s a lot of older people who don’t accept it. Like my parents, they think I should still be that but I don’t feel that way. It doesn’t matter what you look like or what background you come from, we should all be working together as one organisation. If you’ve got people like myself, if people said “oh no you can’t come in” I would feel that’s wrong. You should feel that it doesn’t matter what you wear, everybody has the same voice as a non disabled person. Everybody should be treated equally.
Stephen is Inclusion Officer at People First.
There are lots of people when you first talk about access they think about physical access but obviously there’s a lot more to it than that. The way we look at access is access to information and try and get things in plain English and maybe Easy Read and that sort of thing.
One group that I was in contact with, they came over to meet me here, so I sent them a photo map of how to get here and within 2 hours they had sent me back a photo map of where they are. How the photo map works is you’ll start at somewhere like say a railway station or a tube station, then you’ll have a walking route from there to the office with photos of landmarks you’ll see on the way. Therefore people who have difficulty reading, they may have learning difficulties or they may be a refugee or something, then they will be able to follow the photo map instead of a normal street map.
Stephen’s work includes carrying out access audits for other DPOs.
The audit takes about 2 hours. We ask them questions on how the organisation’s run and whether they include people with learning difficulties in their organisation. If I find one group is doing something really good with people with learning difficulties, and another group nearby may not be doing so well, maybe putting the two together so that they can then help support each other.
Why should Disabled People’s Organisations have an access audit?
Because organisations should be equally inclusive of all people with disabilities.
Wigan and Leigh People First produce all their policies and documents in Easy Read and encourage others to do the same.
Easy Read, if people can’t read they can also look at the pictures. It will help them.
I think it’s really important that we have it in an Easy Read format because then everybody can understand it.
Our constitution as a charity is in an Easy Read format. We don’t have a different version. We only have the one. The Charity commission accepted our constitution, whereas some people said that they wouldn’t and you have to have a complicated version. So it’s been interesting hasn’t it?
It has. Yes. We’re a good group and we’re gonna stick to it.
We are going to stick to it aren’t we?
When Wigan and Leigh People First secured some funding for access the group bought photo symbols to use in their Easy Read documents and they brought a video camera.
The group use the camera a lot. Recently they used it during the election of ministers to their self advocates parliament.
The people who weren’t there on the day, we actually filmed them with this camera.
There were some people who just couldn’t attend but because we were able to use the camera to record their speeches, they could still stand in the election.
Because it’s a very good camera because it can do for Facebook as well. Because Julie can edit on a computer and a laptop and then we have Facebook to show it. I think we’ve got the power now to speak up.
There’s more media that we can get involved in.
We can actually get our voices heard in more places.
Through using a camera?
Yeah. Yeah through using the camera.
Being disabled cuts across board, across all the strands. It could be faith but you have a disabled person. You could be BME, a disabled person. You could be gender woman, you're a disabled person. So it cuts across. So let's not make the issue of being disabled as kind of like a certain particular group of people. It cuts across board and therefore we need to ensure that we bring everybody across board to the point where society accepts them. That they have a right to be here therefore we need to support these groups, for the groups to come to that point where they can in their localities, support disabled people and develop new groups to fight for the rights of disabled people. I think it’s very important.