Disability Inclusion

blue badge.jpgI think I want to write a bit this week about disability and inclusion in youth work, yes I definitely think that’s what I’d like to write about. So ……
A story which I hope will serve as an introduction and form the basis for some reflection.
As a family we had the privilige of being at Butlins for a week in the Spring break. My thirteen year old son, H (who has cerebral palsy) and is passionate about driving, loves Butlins. He likes it for all sorts of reasons including the greater degree of freedom he enjoys, but most of all because of the Dodgems. If you are staying at Butlins then the fun-fair is free. For H this means packing a drink and a peaunut butter sandwich into a bag and heading down to the Dodgems. Once there it means queuing, having a drive, joining the back of the queue and driving again (and again). The staff at the Dodgems were fantastic, willing to help him put his seatbelt on and happy to wait the extra time it took for him to extricate himself from the car at the end of a session. Fab!
H’s dream though was to drive a Go-kart and every day he would study the track, the karts and the drivers. This year he met the height criteria necessary to pilot a go-kart round the track and he was so excited that I’d promised him a go.
The alloted day arrived and he was actually quivering with excitement as we approached the barrier. Money ready he waited to buy his turn. Sadly the supervisor wasn’t quite so keen and was point blank that H was not driving a go-kart.
Why?,” I asked
Because he’s not old enough!” came the explanation.
I patiently explained that it was height not age that was the criteria according to their own stated rules …. and beside which there were young people significantly younger actually driving on the circuit.
The answer was still an absolute no and I patiently pointed out that it wasn’t fair to deny him the opportunity because he had a disability.
It’s not his disability, it’s a health and safety judgment!” I was told.
Despite protestations I got no further than being told If he wanted to have a go I would have to hire the more expensive two seater and he could be a passenger.
There was no point in arguing, H and I left frustrated and disappointed.
It was so important to H though that I decided we shouldn’t give up. We went back the next day in the hope that someone else was on duty, someone who’d be more willing to give H a chance despite his disability.
The guy on duty was fantastic! He was open to me explaining that I believed this was within the capability of my son and that he would really like to try. He took my son seriously and was willing to negotiate. He was happy to let H have a drive but decided that he’d prefer to not have other drivers on the circuit for safety reasons and would be happy if my son and I had 2 separate cars on a closed circuit.
H drove it brilliantly, keeping the kart under control the whole time and even managing the winding pathway back to the garage at the end of the 5 laps! The sense of enjoyment and achievement he’d experienced was massive and obvious, the gargantuan grin lasted for hours afterwards.
I was tempted to turn this into the parable of the ‘Disability Discrimination Act’ but then I thought, nah! I will probably write some stuff on DDA tomorrow though.

7 Replies to “Disability Inclusion”

  1. that is awesome Ian!! mind if i use it as a case study next year – we do a session on y p and disability!!
    oh by the way check out
    http://www.coremagazine.org and if you could give a heads up to this on the site that would be wonderful!! Keith Ayling (Kato) is the guy behind the mag!! there is also a facebook group, simply called Core magazine

  2. Dot,
    By all means use it, the reason I posted it was it struck me as a good case study even if it is one that is a little close to home for me.
    Interestingly too, the original supervisor did re-appear and gave me a very hard time for bypassing his authority and decision. Despite another long conversation he could not recognise the issues involved (or chose not to) at all.
    oh and I will definitely post something on ‘CORE’ …. thanks for the pointer

  3. thanks for that Ian. and as for Core I think it is really really good (even if I am one of the writers!!
    oh and just got word today I can apply for a doctorate to go alongside my vicar training!!

  4. Thank you for posting this – my (in)justice sensors are bristling!! Big respect for having another go and for staying calm about the whole thing.
    The actions of the second supervisor give a brilliant example of taking all factors into account, making an on the spot mental risk assessment and doing the right thing. It’s too easy to say ‘no’.
    But there’s another story here, other than the one about “supervisor says no”, and that’s the way you held out for H and were persistent enough to make this happen. He’ll probably remember that for the rest of his life.

  5. Hi Ian,
    Thanks so much for including this. I can see H’s grin from here!
    Strangely, I’ve been writing a case-study this week called ‘Making Space for Disability’ based on my experience of watching Sainsburys shoppers respond to Guy using his walker up and down the aisles. Gut-wrenching but soo good. I’ve been reading an old book (1963) by Lambourne, ‘Community, Church & Healing’, who talks about the necessity for all of us to ‘share the burden of suffering’. Sounds like sense to me.
    Love to the tribe

  6. I am so glad you went back thankyou for sharing this …….my son has been a insulin dependent diabetic since nine years old….he is now eighteen! At the age of eleven a coach driver refused to take my son on his coach for his journey to school….so for his first academic year at secondary school, he was the only child from our area at his school not on the coach.Eventually ofcourse after negotiation and lengthy conversation about diabetes we established that…’ No my son would not need two seats on the coach just incase of a Hypo!’…. however he has now successfully completed six years on the coach without requiring extra seats!He jokes about it now but the rejection hurt him at the time.

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