Stamping out discrimination in Europe: Reflecting on time in the Czech Republic

After a great week in the Czech Republic, Shaun and Piers reflect on their time and the impact it has had on the social care professionals they have worked with.

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At the end of the two days of training, we can say that it was a success. The social workers and self-advocates were really taking on board our ideas about peer-to-peer support, role modelling, self-advocacy, accessible resources, parenting, sexuality and other issues for people with intellectual disabilities, supported decision-making and independent living.

On the second day we thought it would be a good idea to talk about ‘Action Plans.’ Actions Plans are a tool for helping build a person’s confidence to live independently and make decisions for themselves. The social workers from Brno were particularly interested in hearing about this tool. But we were careful to point out that ‘one size doesn’t fit all’ and while an action plan might benefit some people it won’t work for everyone. Support with decision making and independent living is about taking it one person at a time. This means being flexible based on who the person is and what they want from their life. We also talked about risk taking. Shaun pointed out that people with intellectual disabilities – like all people – need to able to take risks. Sometimes social workers are scared to ‘take their gloves’ off because they’re scared they will get in trouble if something goes wrong. But we wanted to move the focus from preventing risk to protecting the right to a normal life. And that means making mistakes and growing – not being wrapped in cotton wool.

At the end of the day we asked participants for their feedback. Many people were struck by the co-working model. They said the model, as well as how we work together, was inspiring. Some people seemed surprised that it was our first time working together. Some social workers who were there said that they would go back and try to develop their own co-working arrangements.

We were really pleased and we hope that in a years time we can see co-working and self-advocacy happening in the Czech Republic. Many of the participants said that they were inspired by Shaun’s work at CHANGE.

Shaun: “Including people with intellectual disabilities in paid peer-to-peer roles was the next step for the Czech Republic.  I really like working with Piers and I’d like to work together in the future because it was really comfortable. We sometimes jumped in to comment on each others presentation and our different skills and knowledge were really complementary.”

Piers: “I was really pleased with how we worked together and Shaun gave me a lot to think about – including making my slides more accessible!!”

We’d like to thank our hosts here and the training participants and we hope to do more of this kind of thing in the future. Stopping discrimination against people with disabilities – preventing hate crime and including people in all areas of life – won’t happen over night in the Czech Republic. It will take time. We hope our presentation took us one step closer to that goal.

We will post photos of our trip soon.

Your humble correspondents from Prague,

Shaun and Piers”

We need to be included at the beginning and forever…

A guest blog from CBM Worldwide about Training delivered by CHANGE in Bangkok 2015

CHANGE and Changes today: “We need to do action, and now!” (Shaun, CHANGE UK).

No more plastic water bottles, but jugs with water (the David effect)! Then, the most inspiring session of the week started. Catherine and Shaun from CHANGE UK, a user-led organisation of persons with learning disabilities, explained their work. CHANGE UK is fighting for equal rights and empowerment of persons with learning disabilities. CHANGE makes information accessible, easy to read and to understand. They do research, campaigns, and training on human rights, sex and relationships, parenting, on sexual abuse and disability hate crime.

Catherine and Philippa work with Suwang on the Ladder of Power

Catherine and Shaun are role models themselves. “We are Power Changers”, said Shaun.

It is important to advocate for girls, boys, women and men with learning disabilities to speak for themselves. CBM can promote this with our projects and we should invest in making our materials accessible and easy to understand for people with learning disabilities.

We discussed the power position of persons with learning disabilities within society, as they are perceived as being low on the ladder of power. In order to support people with learning disabilities to climb the ladder of power, we need to work together to open opportunities for attending mainstream schools, for work and for health. To do this, we all need to work on the following:

  • Attitudes need to be changed
  • Give voice to, and learn to listen
  • Accessing information
  • Peer learning
  • Teaching others to stand up for themselves
  • Training of parents for being good advocates and letting their children speak for themselves

Personal stories help to change attitudes. Catherine said, “Professionals like seeing us as labels and don’t see the person first”. Shaun added, “Our voices, our choices”.

Shawn and Catherine reflecting on easy-read messages

In the afternoon we put our efforts in adapting our development framework into easy- to-understand format. For example, how do we say in easy words: “Development co-operation is accessible and inclusive”?

This was a very useful exercise, since we realized that we tend to use a lot of jargon in our daily work. For information to be useful and accessible, messages need to be accurate, short, to the point, written in large font, no capitals, pale background, and include clear pictures.

Shawn and Catherine enjoy our easy read efforts

At the end of the day, all regions brainstormed on the way forward. In most regions we already started some initiatives and we need to start listening to the voice of persons with learning disabilities, develop our own capacities and facilitate situations where persons with learning disabilities empower themselves. As Mohan said, it is not that the voices are not there, “but we are not giving our ears to those voices”. We all agreed that we wanted to be held to account for making a change.

Shaun summed it up, “We need to be included at the beginning and forever. Our voices, our choices”.