Hear the voice of the marginalised

23rd March 2001 at 00:00
PLAYBACK: a consultation with young wheelchair users. Video and resource pack. pound;126.75 inc pamp;p and VAT. The Playback Company LtdThe Cottage, 235 Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh EH12 7AR. Tel 0131 334 2126; e-mail playback235@netscapeonline.co.uk

Donnie MacLeod reviews a video pack that will boost the agenda of social inclusion for the disabled.

Playback is an organisation which aims to benefit young people with disabilities by challenging inequality, promoting self-advocacy, encouraging participation and improving service. Directors Liz Hawksford and Margaret Scott have collaborated with a team of education, health, social work and media representatives to produce a video and resource pack which successfully addresses these aims. The most significant players in the collaboration are, however, the children who feature in the film.

Ms Hawksford and Ms Scott know the problems that young people with physical disabilities can face: they are both parents of wheelchair users.

Their work is a fine expression of the way in which self-advocacy can be promoted and supported through joint enterprise. It illustrates how, with imagination and appropriate support, children with disabilities themselves can take centre stage in working towards social inclusion. Of course much can be achieved by professionals, carers and parents, but this pack shows there is no more important voice than that of those who have been marginalised and excluded.

It is designed to be used with diverse groups, including primary and secondary school pupils, teachers, teacher trainers, youth group leaders, professional groups and voluntary agencies. It could also help parent support groups to further the inclusion agenda.

In addition to the video , there are worksheets, activities, a disability awareness questionnaire, extracts from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the results of a national survey on paediatric wheelchair provision, the script of the video and details of support networks.

This is a comprehensive resource for the promotion of disability awareness and the enhancement of inclusion in schools and the wider community. Its use would fit within the framework of 5-14 personal and social education. Guidance is provided for teachers or group leaders, detailing ways to use the materials with each target audience and highlighting themes nd issues to be addressed.

The activities suggested have been thoughtfully developed and are sensitive to the needs and experience of the intended audiences. There is allowance for humour and the exchange of differing perspectives and unexplored assumptions, preconceptions and attitudes. The activities are, however, challenging and at times will disturb or unsettle.

As with all good teaching materials, the authors get the balance between challenge and support about right. In order to be most effective, however, the teaching or workshop sessions will require careful handling by skilled and well informed teachers or leaders. With this in mind, Playback offers related training workshops to those who would like to develop skills in the use of the material.

The video is, in my view, the most powerful element of the pack. It is at times, moving, amusing, charming and disturbing but for those committed to advocacy and social inclusion it is an inspiration. The achievement of the children who feature in it is worthy of celebration. Indeed, one of the most significant segments of the video is the film of its own premi re on The Night of the Stars.

The video also includes the children sharing their views and experiences, the perspectives of parents and a discussion led by the children with Helen Liddell, the former minister for education.

Although it is designed to be used along with the activities and worksheets, the video stands on its own and can be used as a prompt for extended discussion, although this would require skilled and informed leadership.

Those of us who give addresses on inclusion and special educational needs would do well to use clips from this video.

This is a quality resource of a type long overdue. It is skilful in its organisation and effective in its presentation. It should find its way into primary and secondary school classes and is worthy of wide dissemination.

In the words of the authors: "It is the passionate hope of everyone involved that this resource pack will help to mobilise resources to improve the quality of the lives of these children and their families, as well as to raise awareness on disability generally and thereby effect real social change."

Donnie MacLeod is professor of special educational needs and head of the school of educational studies at Northern College, Aberdeen.

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