IEDP, 21 May 2014

The third in the series of free seminars organised by the Institute of Equality and Diversity Practitioners (IEDP) took place in Leeds on 21st May at the Carriage Works Theatre. This seminar asked if the social model of disability has run its course. Should it be replaced or do we need to integrate it into thinking about advancing disability equality in more sophisticated ways? The seminar aimed to explore the intersections between disabled and non-disabled people across all aspects of physical, sensory and mental impairment and disability.

Approximately 50 people attended a very positive and interesting seminar which was chaired by IEDP board member Yasmin Damree-Ralph. Two British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters were also in attendance. Everyone was welcomed to the event by Mary-Ann Nossent, IEDP lead on events, who gave an overview of the IEDP and the series of seminars. This introduction was followed by the first panel of three speakers.

Peter Quinn, from York University, spoke about good practice at his current university and also in his previous role at Oxford, and pointed out that the Public Sector Equality Duty requires meaningful involvement of disabled people. He referred to the recent announcement by David Willetts that Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) is to be ‘modernised’ – which involves a 70% cut, arguing that this is a backward step, as research by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) showed that that students in receipt of DSA did better than expected compared with disabled students not receiving it. He also strongly recommended a recent book: Frost, Stephen, 2014, The Inclusion Imperative: How real inclusion creates better business and builds better societies, London: Kogan Page.

Next, Sheekha Rajani from talked about disability confidence in employment. She summarised the main themes she discussed with her clients in terms of inclusive practice:

  • The organisation’s approach to diversity and disability as a strand
  • Visible role models and/or senior diversity champions
  • Integrated approach to managing diversity and disability
  • Monitoring and employee declarations
  • Access to personal development and progression opportunities
  • Employee networks (formal/informal and internal/external)
  • Organisation and line manager attitudes

The third speaker was Martin McConaghy from the National Register of Access Consultants (NRAC). Martin spoke about the built environment and argued that basic freedoms rely on an inclusive environment. He felt that those responsible for Planning and Building Control were mainly interested in buildings, not in people and their rights. He advised using an Access Consultant at every stage of the building project from the original briefing, through the design and construction phases to the operational stage.

After a lively question and answer session, there were brief presentations from Kate Hinton on IEDP accreditation and Sheekha Rajani on DiversityJobs’ The Big IDEA website before lunch.

The afternoon session opened with the second panel of three speakers. Stephen Brookes from the Disability Hate Crime Forum outlined key aspects of tackling hate crime:

  • Tackling discrimination in criminal justice agencies – through awareness training, awareness raising
  • Tackling complacency/tolerance of abuse in care settings
  • Safeguarding referrals from agencies, health services and police.
  • Information sharing between voluntary, care, health and criminal justice agencies
  • Empowering people; tackling stigma and discrimination

He stressed the importance of supporting the targets of hate crime to give evidence, preventing further abuse, listening and investigating without prejudice.

This was followed by Jagdeep Passan from Leeds Involving People, who spoke about the different categories of barriers to participation that people can face: physical barriers, communication barriers, personal barriers and cultural barriers. He then went on to give examples of how these barriers can be overcome:

  • Accessible venues and transport
  • Be flexible
  • Use plain and accessible language
  • Translation and interpretation
  • Increase confidence by e.g. shadowing others, being a deputy
  • Give sufficient notice for meetings
  • Childcare and caring facilities

The final speaker, Niccola Swann from Leeds MIND, gave a thoughtful presentation on mental health, equality and the social model of disability. She suggested that although the social model of disability was originally more focused on physical and sensory disabilities there are clearly some benefits to applying it to mental health, in terms of the emphasis on the social and political context and the highlighting of exclusion and discrimination. However mental health problems are very personal, subjective experiences that are not just about social context.

After another question and answer session we moved into roundtable discussions. This provided an opportunity to share good practice, discuss areas of concern and consider ways forward for the IEDP and other organisations. The plenary session focused on suggestions for the future and feedback from the roundtable discussions came up with a list of ideas for the IEDP and partner organisations to take forward.

Click here for the notes from the roundtable discussions. PowerPoint presentations by the speakers are available in the members’ area.



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