Last week I saw a tweet that suggested disabled parking bays should only be for disabled people between 9am and 5pm. Prejudicial statements like this assume disabled people do not work and that living a rich and fulfilling social life does not matter to us.
This is precisely why a group of teachers and academics, myself included, have decided to launch the organisation DisabilityEd.
We at DisabilityEd want to shift perceptions like these so that every person becomes of unique value rather than a label. We want to self-define, not be defined through the eyes of others. Furthermore, we want DisabilityEd to be at the forefront of educating people to think differently about disability. Finally, and most importantly, we want all disabled people to receive genuine support and accommodation so that they can work in education without fear or guilt, and without apology.
Those who do not need any adjustment or accommodation to work do not realise how difficult making these simple requests can be. Asking for reasonable adjustments can make you feel like you are an inconvenience to the organisation. The phrase "othered" relates to the way in which disabled people are treated as totally different to everyone else – and the majority of disabled or chronically ill people have experienced this at some point in their lives. It is this experience that Vivienne Porritt talks about in her TedEd Norwich talk “Normal is just a setting on a washing machine”.
Academics Lyn Haynes and Maria Turkenburg have created a seminal piece of work suggesting a whole host of reasonable adjustments that people may need in an education setting. They did this to support disabled people who want to become teachers and have their needs met in initial teacher training.
The reality for some disabled people is that they are still dismissed on ill-health grounds. They are overlooked when it comes to promotions. They are questioned about their capability to do certain roles. They have to fight to get their needs met and often do not feel protected by laws like the Equality Act, which is meant to prevent discrimination.
There is so much stigma and unconscious bias attached to the word "disability". The main problem with stigma is that you can’t touch it, you can only feel it; therefore, it can be very hard to convince society to believe it. For these reasons and more, we need DisabilityEd raising awareness and highlighting inequality in education.
Introducing the #DisabilityEd Development Group:
Lynne Warham raising awareness for invisible disabilities, Cat Salt flying the flag for people with autism and psychological conditions, Vivienne Porritt highlighting how cancer and chronic illnesses lead to disability, Lyn Haynes and Maria Turkenburg supporting disability through ITT and Ruth Golding focusing on the impact of physical disabilities at work.