Why are young disabled people not interested in becoming involved with DPOs and what can the forum do to attract them Zara Todd
The problem • Young disabled people are under-represented in some parts of the movement. • Although there are young disabled involved in Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOs) there are not enough to ensure the long-term survival of DPOs
The problem • 26% of those DPOs surveyed for the Alliance for Inclusive Education’s ‘Pushing for change research’ (2010) reported that they did not currently do any specific work with young disabled people. • Currently charities for disabled people are much more successful at engaging disabled young people, while this is not a bad thing DPO’s can offer young disabled people some things that charities can’t.
The problem • There are so many opportunities open to young disabled people now both related and unrelated to disability that DPOs are competing to reach and involve disabled young people with many others. • Currently much of the engagement of young disabled people in DPOs tends to be disorganised, time limited, dependent on individuals and often happens by chance.
History • The is a lot of history and experience in most DPOs today which needs to be handed down to young disabled people. • Unfortunately there is a lot of personal politics involved in the movement which makes getting heavily in DPO’s a bit of a minefield for young disabled people.
History • Many of the DPOs in the UK seem to have developed out of collective experience for young disabled people the experience isn’t the same. Many young disabled people today have had limited contact with other disabled people. This creates a challenge...
Barriers and challenges • Society’s negative reaction to disability makes many young disabled people hesitant to join something that encourages positive identification disability. • The lack of specific projects around being young and disabled don’t help. • Although the services offered by many DPOs may be accessed by young disabled people on the whole a lot of the services are more relevant when you become an adult.
Barriers and challenges • Outreach work in DPOs is limited and disabled young people are unlikely to have had exposure to the idea of DPOs let alone how they would find them. • If you do find a DPO as a young person it can often be intimidating often there aren’t many or in some cases any other young people involved. Many of those involved have been for longer than you may have been alive, if it’s not made clear it can be difficult to see why your contribution is valuable or important.
A lack of young disabled people already involved in an organisation can be off putting as it suggests that the organisation doesn’t have much to offer you or that they are not open to young people • Although DPOs are good at making reasonable adjust this assumes you know what you will need and be able to express it which is not a given with young disabled people. In addition there is a difference between making information accessible and making it relevant and accessible to young people.
Where organisations have included young disabled people in there monitoring and governance structures there has been a tendency to over estimate young peoples exposure and understanding of policy and formalised accounts. Involvement has to be full involvement not tokenism unfortunately often the extra support needs of young disabled people the enable them to be meaningfully involved are forgotten. • If young disabled people are visibly involved and valued then this will attract more people.
Systems and organisational structures can also provide a barrier to young peoples involved – • Meeting during the weekdays • Expenses paid through claims rather than in advance or immediately • Location of meeting venues • I have also seen where young people have made suggestions to alter or enhance the way an organisation works be shot down because it is not what the organisation has always done. • Another challenge for young disabled people particularly those under 16 is transport
What helped me • Knowing other young people who were already involved. • The organisation having a service that I wanted to access. • Having access to older/ more experience people who could answer my questions and support my skill development. • Having my whole identity acknowledged.