adult-smallInclusion is about making sure that all people, whatever their abilities, have the same opportunities as other people to participate in and contribute to their community and society generally.

There are many ways in which people with disabilities and other support needs are excluded from society: barriers to access; other people’s prejudice, ignorance and unwillingness to include people who are different in some way; lack of resources and support to assist people to be included; poverty; inaccessible transport; and many others.

Advocacy is about supporting people to be included in their communities. This may be through ensuring that they take part in making choices and decisions. Or it may be through supporting them to be included in local activities.

Inclusion involves seeing and developing the talents that everyone has, and ensuring they have opportunities to contribute. It is also about everyone thinking about how they can communicate in a way that people can understand, and how they can act in a way that includes others.

At Partners in Advocacy we believe that inclusion starts at home. We are committed to making sure that the organisation is as inclusive of people with learning disabilities and other support needs as possible.

 

Read Douglas’ Story

Extracts from an article that first appeared in the December 2013 issue of Life and Work the magazine of the Church of Scotland featuring Douglas Brown who is a long standing Trustee of Partners in Advocacy

‘A Safe Place’

I discuss my disability with very few, family and a teacher friend who understands. I enjoy outings with the young adult’s autistic group, but we never talk about our difficulties. I am glad to take this opportunity to tell something of myself and my place in (my) church community.

When I was seven or eight years old, I was struggling to write words and numbers yet I knew I was good at reading, spelling and counting. Then they labelled me “dyspraxic” so I knew I was different but I enjoyed primary school where I had extra support and friends – temper this with “my mum was our head teacher”!

At our local high school I had a scribe for class exams and eventually for Highers. I went on all available school holidays and trips, but by now I was finding it very difficult to have an intimate friend. I don’t really understand when people are joking with me, or getting at me. I go to pieces when I am criticised.

I graduated from Dundee University Law Faculty with a Second Class Honours LLB in Scots Law. My barrier to a social life at university was my lifelong inability to cope with sudden change, even in very trivial matters. In first year at university, people would ask me to join them for a drink, I had to refuse. I could not about turn from my routine. I always left the library at 2pm. Nothing could change that, so people left me well alone. I always had to sit in the middle of the long benches at lectures so that fellow students would not try to push past me at the end of the lecture. If I couldn’t manage that, I’d sit through the lecture very stressed that I’d be in people’s way.

I desperately wanted to work and to be part of a group like other people but there followed three or four dozen humiliating interviews because I would tick the Disability Box. I became very low and discouraged. I was given a chance by the local authority and placed in a temporary position in the Legal Section of their Law & Admin Department. People in the office were tolerant of me. I did feel pressurized by the volume of work. I went back to university to study for the Diploma in Legal Practice. There was a time when I thought I could be a lawyer, but gradually I realised I would not get a traineeship among such competition………. I imagined myself working hard on the instructions of colleagues in a back office away from the public. I never had to resit an exam or redo an assessment in the four year LLB course but I did not gain the professional diploma.

The National Autistic Society report that 15% of adults diagnosed to have ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) are in employment and of that a fair number are in the “family firm”.

Similarly, I have found no leeway within the Disability Employment Law. There’s always scope for the Regulations to be got around. My honour’s project was on “Law and the Disabled”. It was idealistic rather than realistic.

I joined the church when I was 15 years old. I attended the youth group but it was all girls and difficult to be part of although the older girls did try and include me…. I am on the Reader’s list. Reading aloud is something I can do on equal terms. I try to think about the meaning of the passage when I practise, so I can get the emphasis right. At my previous church I served on the Finance Committee which involved lifting the collection at Sunday worship. The sequence of rows and pews was well ordered and exact but I found it very difficult so I worried and fretted about my days on duty until I was corrected for going the wrong way with the collection place. I withdrew from duty after that. I know that to be part of something everybody has to be able to take direction, but it is a big problem with me. This sounds intolerant and unreasonable but it is my limitation……

I dread in company that the conversation will turn to the Benefits Issue. Then there will be talk of “scroungers” and “folk who won’t work”. I feel humiliated when “there is work for everyone if they just seek it out!” is trotted out. People don’t want to hurt me personally but I feel part of what angers them……

I am a member of the Board of Partners in Advocacy, meeting in Edinburgh once a month. I am part of the Access Group, CLIP (Centre for Inclusive Living in Perthshire). I have my Faith. I know what it means to be a Christian, although I don’t talk to people about that. It has been good to have my say.