Helping disabled reach their potential should be a priority
I’M often contacted by constituents concerned that there should be better co-ordination in the provision of services for various groups across all the branches of government. One such area is how we look after the needs of people with disabilities. Helping these reach their potential should be a priority and more than £50billion a year is spent on people with disabilities and services.
By ensuring there is wider awareness of the varying needs of people with disabilities, we can go a long way towards the goal of achieving a fairer and more equal society.
Legislation protects people with disabilities, with a specific focus on areas like employment and education. Employers and education providers must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to avoid people being put at a disadvantage. Even something like an application form must be available in a variety of formats so that it is accessible.
The government encourages the use of the social model as a way of understanding disability, rather than the ‘medical model’ of disability. The ‘medical model’ is called this because many people think of disability as something which is caused by an individual’s health condition or an impairment. The perception is that the individual can be treated in some way so that they can participate in society as anyone else can. However, that view (the ‘medical model’) is not supported by people with disabilities or the organisations which work to help them.
The social model, however, looks at identifying and providing solutions to the barriers which face people with disabilities. Those barriers often fall into three categories. First, there is the environment, which includes inaccessible buildings or the services provided to people. Second, attitudinal issues, like stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination. Third, organisational matters, which might involve things like inflexible policies or procedures.
There is a lot of practical advice and help available. Above all, having an open mind and adopting a fresh way of looking at tackling barriers can make a big difference.