I have had a very interesting week as I have had a young schoolgirl shadowing me on her work experience. Rosie is 15 years old and hasn't had much experience being with disabled people, however she wants to work with people in her future career (although she doesn't know what that is yet) and she relished the opportunity of spending a week with me at the charity I run called Music Alive.
Although delighted to have a young person under my wing to teach the ways and means with which Music Alive works with people, I thought it might be a little narrow and specific, so to ensure that she had the best possible experience in the week, we visited a few other local organisations who are creating opportunities for people with disabilities.
The highlight for us both was yesterday when we visited an access day where different sports and activities were available for disabled children to actively participate. The day was organised by Ben Humphrey, and I have the pleasure of knowing that I was part of the panel that interviewed and selected Ben for the post he currently holds. The event had several activities available for children to try out at their leisure, and each and everyone relished this opportunity, especially the adapted bicycles.
Rosie and I looked on, and we chatted about what we were witnessing and we discussed the possible cost of some of the equipment being used. I had some experience of this from when I started the Powerchair Football Club in 2007 where the costs of the correct chair to be able to play was a minimum of £5000, where a non-disabled child could pick up a football and a pair of football boots for under £50 if they don't get the latest models. Rosie pleased me when she told me she hadn't ever thought about this kind of stuff before but it would make her think about things like this from now on.
To add some assistance, I returned briefly to my position of a few years ago as a Boccia coach (boccia is a bowls type sport) when a young man in a wheelchair asked me how it was played, I was even more pleased when Rosie offered her assistance to the young man without imposing herself on him with no prompting from me.
This got me to thinking that a lot of the people on that sports field will still be around long after I'm gone (slightly morbid but true). Will they live in a world where these kind of access days are a thing of the past because the things that we see as 'special' or 'adapted' become mainstream? Will young people like Rosie and the young man who asked for my boccia expertise live in a more equual society?
I feel that this can happen, maybe not in my lifetime but hopefully in theirs, but can really only have a chance with a sustained attitude of educating non-disabled people so that what is currently termed as 'inclusive' and 'accessible' becomes mainstream, and by raising the aspirations of people with disabilities so they can raise awareness of any injustices and discrimanatory practice and can feel that its okay to do so without fear of prejudice and reprisals.
But for all us disabled activists and blogger its worth noting, as this week has reminded me, its not just for ourselves that we do what we do, but it also has an effect on the future citizens we come into contact with and influence, either positively or negatively.
You can see a video showing some of the stuff that was happening yesterday at www.swindonweb.com, sadly I was editted out....oh well