Where is the leadership? How do we develop new ideas and the fresh thinking?
There is still so much work that needs to be done around helping people, not only to lead their own lives, but to be leaders for all of us.
To achieve this, we need to develop what I like to term ‘social scaffolding’. Social scaffolding is the process where people develop relationships, good and bad, with their peers. This occurs through natural experiences when a person has full autonomy in their life.
I faced many barriers to this when I was younger, and some of them still have an impact on me today. I remember back to my days in high-school when a teacher asked me what my life would be like in the future. I predicted, then, that I’d like to be a consultant living in the city with a lot of support people around me.
The teacher questioned my vision, and told me to look at my low grades. That conversation in particular stands out… because it made me ruthless. What relationship does grades actually have to success? What relationship does your impairment have to achieving the life that you want? None. Attitude and hard work is the key to success. In actual reality, the school wasn’t configured in a way that supported my needs.
When you take into account all the inequality that exists in our society, especially for disabled people, I’m not convinced that we have a real grip on human rights yet, nor how to fully implement legislation that aids it. Secondary to that, the status quo in disability support circles cannot continue. Some people would say that the disability sector and parts of the wider community is really judgemental and toxic, so I try and be the exact opposite.
I feel like many people underestimate their own abilities. I feel a sense of urgency around encouraging as many people as possible to believe that they do have the talent to get everything that they want in their lives, and they all bring unbelievable leverage to the wider community. But with that said, the social scaffolding is vital, because it’s result provides people with the confidence they need in order to discover and achieve wider change.
As our sector moves into its new age, reclaiming the disability narrative is important for our people. I want to level the playing field, we’ve got to nurture leadership, but above all else we need to aid people’s self esteem. The establishment needs to step aside and let things be run by younger people, preferably those that can identify with disability. And yes, these people can be found in the disability community, and they can provide tremendous leverage.
Positive energy is needed, and fast. To get positive thoughts and engagement in the hearts and minds of a larger society, we need to project that out ourselves.