When I was due to go on work experience at school, I missed out because of my spinal fusion surgery. Not to be deterred, a year later I found my own placement in the school holidays. It took a bit of research and rejection. I found something in the end.
I helped run the leisure centre kids club, and worked on reception for the local gym. With my skeletal frame (the operation had hit me hard for a few years) and my train track braces - I was every bit an awkward teenager.
Each day I went into work feeling nervous. What if I couldn't reach the phone, or I needed the toilet (this was before I had full time care support)? What if I said something stupid? What if the kids asked questions about my disability? Oh the anxiety rained down hard.
However every time I went home, I felt so happy. Full of pride. Nothing bad had happened. The staff and customers were great to be around. Most of all I was participating in my local community. It felt amazing.
Recently I was lucky enough to interview Liz Sayce. Currently transitioning as CEO of Disability Rights UK to new adventures. It was a great time to look both back and forwards at the disability rights movement.
In this podcast Liz talks about the early battles. The hard campaigns fought just for disabled people to be heard. Let alone to win political and legal gains. It wasn't easy, quick or simple. But the original activists did it. Disabled people eventually got their legislative protection - the Equalities Act 2012 as it is now.
As CEO of Disability Rights UK, Liz oversaw a difficult merger of 3 different but complimentary charities. Alongside launching great projects like the Leadership Academy Programme (LAP). The charity has grown lots. You can also watch a short video of the mentors and delegates who previously attended the LAP here.
In this great interview we agree on two very fundamental points. Two points for disabled people's rights to be upheld and improved. All people (whether disabled or not actually), should have both community participation (as in my work experience example), and universal design.
Briefly touching upon universal design too. Have you noticed when there is a ramp or steps, most people take the ramps? It's the same with digital design, public spaces, service delivery and beyond. Solutions that consider disabled people often benefit everybody else.
Inclusion is possible. We just have to open our minds.
I really hope you enjoy listening to our discussion. Liz really inspired me to encourage inclusive design, and to keep fighting the recent political regression.
With the General Election coming up, make sure you register to vote. It's important disabled people and their allies use their vote. Look for the parties wanting to invest in disabled people. Definitely not the parties looking to cut our means to live independently with choice and control.
See you soon,