For those who are regular readers you may have been wondering why I haven’t written many blogs so far this year. I really love my writing my blog, however, because I want to expand the work that We Are All Disabled does I have been writing and delivering the We Are All Disabled Disruptor training programme to organisations as well as speaking at events to promote it.
The WAAD Disruptor programme aims to help organisations to create positive cultural change and think about disability in a more affirmative way. We do this by creating a supportive space for people to share their experiences, speak their truth and discuss the issues that make them uncomfortable.
We believe that meaningful change comes from people looking within and challenging beliefs and perceptions in a safe environment. Therefore we don’t shy away from difficult topics but instead encourage and embrace open and honest conversation and debate.
One of the companies that we have been fortunate to be work with is Home Group national housing association. Home Group already do a lot of work around ED&I but are keen to do more and challenge themselves both as individuals and as an organisation They have been fully on board and hugely enthusiastic from when we first pitched to them and their input and support has been fantastic in helping us to shape and develop the programme.
For our first session with Home Group they asked us to present the story of We Are All Disabled and introduce the Disruptor programme to 70 of their senior leadership team at their brand new head office in central Newcastle.
Talk about jumping in at the deep end! On the same day we also held the first workshop on ‘Model behaviour’ where I spoke about the Medical, Social and Affirmative models of disability and what they mean in reality. It was certainly a nerve-wracking experience but also very exciting and enjoyable – the participants fully engaged with the presentations and workshop and we received some extremely positive feedback.
Other sessions on the programme cover ‘Are you sitting uncomfortably’ which looks at prejudice and the importance of open conversations; ‘Watch your language’ which explores language and how it relates to perceptions of disability; ‘Attitude is everything’ which looks at the impact of implicit bias; ‘Stand in my shoes’ which explores frames of reference and the difference between empathy and sympathy; and finally ‘Inclusion versus isolation’ which looks at the true meaning and value of Inclusion.
Through exploring these themes through group tasks and in-depth discussions participants will identify key areas for development and what is needed to create positive change at an individual, team and organisational level.
From the 70 people who attended the event at Home Group,12 were selected to participate in the full programme. In the workshops, I present the topic and my colleague and my fellow director Julia, works with me to help facilitate.
The content of the sessions is designed to be thought-provoking and challenging at a personal level and can be quite emotive. The programme aims to have a ‘ripple effect’ where participants will be encouraged to think differently about disability and make changes at an individual level, leading to positive changes in their work, home and social environments.
One participant commented “At the end of the session I felt able to think about disability in a more rounded and affirmative way” whilst another said “I feel inspired and challenged to implement some of the suggestions made”.
As we want the Disruptor programme to be as accessible as possible, we are trying different ways to deliver it. We have delivered sessions face to face and online. Like with any of my public speaking work, ideally I prefer to meet people face to face and be present in the same room with them. I love the experience of chatting to people in person and feeling connected through the energy in the room. Having said that the opportunity to be able to deliver the programme online is fantastic. It means that all organisations can have access to it wherever they are in the world.
I’ve also had some amazing opportunities to speak at various conferences and events throughout the UK and to take part in various interviews and podcasts.
It has been a steep learning curve for me both professionally and personally. However, I am really enjoying it and I’m are very thankful to be on this journey.
In addition to the full Disruptor programme we are also offering ‘taster’ workshops and generic ED&I sessions which so far have been very well received. We are keen to continue our work with other organisations in the North East, nationally and internationally so do get in touch if you’d like to find out more!
Photo by Alfred Schrock on Unsplash