Young disabled leaders and campaigners have appealed to the disability movement to do more to welcome younger people into its organisations.
They were speaking at a conference organised by the Disability LIB alliance, which was set up to build the capacity of disabled people’s organisations (DPOs).
Lucia Bellini, who has worked with the charity VSO as a capacity-builder for DPOs in Guyana, said: “Organisations need to be open and also they should value the skills that young disabled people have to offer.”
She said many established DPOs were “happy to use the same people that they have used for the last 10-15 years and are not open to change that and give new and young people the opportunities to grow”.
Gerry Hart, a member of Darlington Association on Disability’s (DAD) Young Leaders group, told the Building Our Future conference in Birmingham that creating the group had allowed young disabled people to “have a greater amount of influence” within DAD.
He said: “We are not a day centre kind of thing for poor little kids with little impairments. We are a pressure group to help ensure young disabled people and young people as a whole get their voice heard in Darlington without the council ignoring us.”
Anthony Ford, an intern with RADAR, who is involved with planning the 11 May disabled people’s Hardest Hit protest against the cuts, said DPOs needed to be “more welcoming” and more open to the ideas of young disabled people.
He said: “I think what we need to do is very simple: protest, campaign, see your MP, whatever you can do. Stand up for your rights. Don’t let other people tell you what you need.”
Jaspal Dhani, chief executive of the UK Disabled People’s Council, a member of the Disability LIB alliance, said he had been working in the disability sector for many years and had led local DPOs and had always struggled to involve young disabled people.
He said he had been inspired by hearing the young disabled speakers, who showed there was “a future and a passionate future” for the disability movement.
Andrew Lee, director of People First (Self Advocacy), another Disability LIB member, said he wanted to see young disabled activists becoming MPs and councillors.
And he appealed to them to ask themselves “what you can do now on the streets, what you can do for your disability movement today”, and not to think of themselves as individuals but as “part of a very important movement”.
11 April 2011