By Christina Ryan – DLI CEO
The 2016 survey of disability leaders found that most leaders with disabilities are operating in disability specific places not in the mainstream.
What’s behind this? Is the mainstream unwelcoming, or perhaps it’s not interested in disability. Maybe it’s just inaccessible. Is it easier to get employment in disability specific fields? Whatever the reason, the few leaders who do work in the mainstream said that they feel very isolated and are constantly battling to be respected and included.
Working in the mainstream confronts all the prejudices and access barriers that people with disabilities face every day. It forces people to accept you, but to also consider how disability is relevant to whatever the mainstream area is. You are also more likely to be an expert or specialist in your field, so people will need to adjust how they respond to you. Being the only person with disability in a room can be exhausting, but it is also the place where change happens.
Leaders working in the mainstream have told the Disability Leadership Institute many stories including:
– being treated like the work experience kid
– having your disability being the only topic of conversation
– getting stuck in a crowded room and unable to move
– general inaccessibility preventing meaningful participation
– doubting your non-disability expertise
These are just some examples of the barriers faced by leaders working in the mainstream. It can take a strong stomach and real persistence to continue to operate in such environments, but the outcomes are valuable and often make real change for our community.
Our next webinar, Mainstreaming – being in the room, is looking at how to work in the mainstream effectively and with confidence. We’ll examine how you can get the most out of being the only person with disability in the room and how to use your presence to get strong disability outcomes.
The webinar will cover:
– Being in the room.
– Key principles to being in the mainstream
– How to communicate
– What to communicate
– Why are you in the room?
– Making sure you stay in the room.
– Using your presence to increase the representation of people with disabilities
Christina Ryan is the founder of the Disability Leadership Institute and a 2017 Westpac Social Change Scholar.