Sunday, 14 August 2016

Awesome in Theory...

It's nice when you can solve all the world's problems around the dinner table right?  Unfortunately life is a little more complicated than that...

I recently attended one of the Join the Conversation workshops to participate in the formulation of New Zealand's latest Disability Strategy.  For preparation, I read the draft strategy, which you can read here.  It was an interesting experience and I'm really glad I went.  I was very impressed with the draft strategy but I came away from the workshop with a million and one thoughts milling around my brain.

I want to first make it clear that I like the strategy. It's not perfect, but few things are.  For the most part, it reads well, is concise and clear and aspirational, my only real complaint with it is that it is perhaps too concise, and feels like there are gaps in it, though I can't seem to put my finger on where.  Feel free to post a submission and your thoughts on it on the join the conversation website.  Submissions close on the 21st of August so there's still a little bit of time!

At the workshop we had group discussions to give suggestions on how the strategy can be improved and give feedback.  It was at this point that the Cards Against Humanity card 'Awesome in theory, kind of a mess in practice' popped in my brain.  We soon found ourselves trying to change and fix the world.  The trouble is that it's a lot easier to do that when everyone has similar understandings and experiences and agrees that there are problems to begin with.  But half the reason ableism is so prevalent and pervasive is because it's invisible to most people not directly affected.
People who do not have a disability or who are not close to someone who does, might not understand how the world is wired for non-disabled people. It may be invisible to those who do not have disabilities. It is sometimes not intentional, but in certain circumstances, it is very intentional.   (stopableism.org)
While the draft strategy is a great policy to aspire to, it gives little indication on how to achieve it - this is purposeful though, the how-tos are covered in the Disability Action Plan, which I admittedly have not seen or read yet.  I am hopeful and pensively excited, but pragmatic at the reality that what is truly required is a complete paradigm shift in thinking for the general public from normativity to universal design and thinking so that EVERYONE can be included and participate in society.  It's a tall order, though I'd like to think that we can do it.  I already see seeds of change through the works of organisations such as Be. Institute, CCS Disability Action, and so on, but where to even begin is a tricky one.  Let's see what the future brings!

In the meantime I encourage you to make your voices heard at jointheconversation.nz before the 21st of August.  They welcome all voices, disabled, friends, family and carers of disabled folks, etc.

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