Through Fordwrite, I have spent many years delivering disability consultancy services.
In doing so, I have brought my personal lived experience of disability to the table. This is the case as, having been physically impaired since birth, I have acquired a unique perspective on the world through living the majority of my life as a wheelchair user.
In making this statement, though, I'd like to dispel a myth - that my living with disability is neither a tragedy or a daily demonstration of being able to supposedly 'triumph' over my impairment.
Rather, I adhere to the social model of disability which holds that it is the physical, environmental and attitudinal barriers created by society itself which act as the real barriers to people like me being able to fully participate in our communities and not any impairment or health condition.
A specific example of this comes from my own personal experience of being a wheelchair user and encountering the significant number of public buildings and spaces which are inaccessible to me. For example, not being able to access buildings due to their not having ramps means that I can't potentially spend my money with businesses based within them or participate in activities being held within them.
For people with experience of other impairments, such as learning (intellectual) disabilities a key barrier can be the absence of of information in Easy Read (very Plain English) formats; for blind people and people with visual impairments it can be the inability to access some websites due to their being visually inaccessible; and for Deaf people it can be a lack of timely access to New Zealand Sign Language interpreters for meetings or events.
In other words, the experience of disability varies according to the person's impairment and as to when and how they interact with the disabling physical and attitudinal environment(s) around them.
Getting rid of these barriers has been my life's work. I have come to see, through working with people across the impairment/disability spectrum, the importance of working together in order to tear those barriers down and, in doing so, making some great gains that have benefited not only disabled people but all people.
However, as I know from mine and other disabled people's experiences, we still live in a society where there are still significant barriers which remain to be torn down.
One way in which I can help tear those barriers down is through offering disability responsiveness education (formerly known as disability awareness education). Responsiveness education aims to discuss how businesses, organisations and communities can eliminate the barriers to the participation of people like me and others who live with impairments in our communities. These training sessions can be tailored to suit your business or organisation's needs and can include topics such as, for example, how to work with disabled people and how businesses/organisations can make themselves fully inclusive for everyone.
And I've got a great deal of disability awareness and responsiveness experience. For example, during 2016, I was an educator with Te Pou's (the health and disability workforce organisation's) Kia Noho Rangatira Ai Tatou programme and also (during the 1990s) an awareness educator for CCS Disability Action in Dunedin.
Another area is the provision of strategic advice to government agencies, businesses and organisations. Developing good policy and strategy on disability issues and the inclusion of disabled people is pivotal especially that we now live in the era of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
On the policy and strategic advisory front, I've worked as a Projects Officer for the former Otago District Health Board where I helped write a strategy on access to health care for people with intellectual disabilities. In my Fordwrite role, I have undertaken advisory work (including the writing of submissions and papers) for a host of organisations on disability issues.
So, if you're wanting high quality strategic advice on how to make your organisation, business or agency responsive to disabled people, then contact me to discuss your needs.