Projects, just like lives, grow from experiences and ideas. These Rethinking Disability workshops grew from learning about social enterprise and thinking about disability and social change. Our aim is to challenge boundaries… so running workshops that would challenge the way people think about disability (while raising funds and recruiting potential travellers) was the obvious way to go.
Life, is also messy and complex, just like Crossing Countries’ story, so here are just a few of the ideas behind our journey…
- The Ordinariness of Difference: All humans are different (and the same) and it’s by meeting and talking to people we see the similarities and understand the differences. This is the core to fostering empathy and a cohesive society. Disability is just one characteristic of human difference, like the school you went to or the country you’re from, it is just part of your identity, just part of what makes you who you are.
- The Positive Deviance Approach: Positive deviants are people who face the same constraints as everyone else in their community but succeed anyway. By identifying the people who discover these solutions and enabling them to pass on their practises they can become role models and the community can own the process that creates social change. So, the solutions and actions come from the people involved because they are the experts in their own lives.
- Differently Able: Labels are made by society so they can be changed by society. The medical model sees disability as a personal tragedy and the impairment as something that needs fixed whereas the social model sees the way society is organised as the disabling factor. The affirmative model builds on the social model and recognises disabled people as an oppressed group. There isn’t a ‘normal’ person inside a disabled person trying to get out, there is… a person who has the right to valid, positive life experiences, to make their own choices and to be respected.
- Learning through thinking/doing and relationships: There is no doubt that we learn when we actively engage and use all our sense, when we think and understand. There are loads of academic theories about learning… sensory stimulation says that by experiencing, watching, reflecting and experimenting we learn, facilitation theory says it is about human interaction and non-judgemental spaces, while action learning says we learn from each other. We use parts of all these theories to make people actively think through a challenge together, to understand and remember the experience and to apply it in their lives to affect social change.
We’ve mixed up all these theories and ideas with our own experiences, baked them in a cake, sprinkled it with fun and served then with a cuppa… and hey presto you have our rethinking disability workshop story…so far…