So you want to change the way your organisation includes people with a disability, indigenous people, women or another disadvantaged group who need a voice?
A good place to start, according to Clements, Spinks and Phillips in the Equal Opportunities Handbook (2009) is by changing what YOU personally do.
Firstly, you need to learn about the group you are trying to help: the authors note:
- People who are disabled often face hurtful and offensive reactions from people who have little sensitivity or empathy. Empathy and greater understanding can help you avoid adding to such prejudice.
- People who are disabled are sometimes made to feel they are intruding into the world of the able-bodied majority. This isolates them from the communities in which they live. It is the built environment (steps, narrow corridors, voice public phones, visual signs, etc) that has the effect of disabling people who have restricted mobility or have a visual or hearing impairment.
- In the area of employment, people who are disabled face arguments that they are incapable of doing proper jobs, that their contact with the customer would lose sales or that it would cost too much money to alter working arrangements to meet their needs. In the area of education there is little effective provision for students who are deaf or blind and there are only limited arrangements to improve access for students who are wheelchair users.
- Too often a person ’ s disability is all that able-bodied people focus on – they ignore the real person who is at the same time disabled. Many people wrongly assume that because someone is disabled they must also be unintelligent.
- There are many ways in which you can assist a person who is deaf, blind or a wheelchair user, but first you should ask the person if they need and want your help – they may not.”
Social change is also deeply personal change, because it requires us to look at how we see the world and why we see it that way.
The next step is to develop yourself a Personal Action Plan by asking yourself the following questions:
- How will the things I have learnt about disability change the way I think and act towards others who are different to me?
- What has helped me to learn about myself with regard to:
- my beliefs;
- my attitudes;
- my values;
- my knowledge of others;
- my behaviour;
- my use of language;
- my responsibilities;
- the way I see the world?
- How do I need to change in order to become:
- more sensitive;
- more understanding;
- less prejudicial;
- less discriminatory;
- better able to deal with people according to their needs?
- If I were to change one thing about the way I act as a result of reading this what would it be?
(after Clements et al. 2009)
Phil Clements, Tony Spinks, Edward Phillips. (2009). Equal Opportunities Handbook How to Recognise Diversity, Encourage Fairness and Promote Anti-discriminatory Practice (5th ed. ed.). London: Kogan Page.