Where does Disability Integration come in?

According to the Disability Living Foundation from figures published in 2008, there are over 10 Million people disabled in the UK alone.
Of those; 5 million are over pensionable age, 2 Million have significant sight and hearing problems and around 770,000 are children under the age of 16, for the record that’s 1 child in 20.
So approximately 19% of the working age population have a life impacting disability and EU figures from 2013 add an extra 6%.
That’s a lot of people, around 90 London Olympic Stadiums full, or the population of Birmingham.

Of the millions of people available and capable of working around 50% actually do so.  And by the middle of the decade 2015 will see a rise in those figures of over 1.5 Million people.

The fact is it’s often up to 3 times more expensive to live with disability and that leads us to ponder the interesting statistic that the disability equipment market alone is well over £4.5 Billion pounds a year and rising and the latest UK disabled consumer figures from the BCI adding in housing and entertainment put the overall market at £80 Billion plus per annum. That’s a significant market force both economically and more importantly on humanitarian grounds.

Okay, so they are the numbers, but the numbers are only the tip of the story. Obviously thanks to our wonderful National Health Service and welfare state in the UK, although being an unemployed disabled person means that you are not usually riding around in a RollsRoyce, it does mean you are alive and fed and watered. And that can be said for most of Europe, the USA and the more prosperous world nations.

But whilst being fed is a fine thing, it’s being Fed Up that makes the Disability Mindset and experience of life demanding and demoralising. And that’s the real story of disability. Not whether or not you are alive, but whether or not you LIVE!

And to change that all we need to do is Think Disabled.

And that’s where integration comes in.
And I’m not talking Accessibility, that is easily done by removing the odd obstacle when necessary and having a ramp laying around.

Integration in my dictionary says: the intermixing of people or groups previously segregated. So lets presume Integration means actually building and transforming the world so that everyone can be part of it, or not. Integration should also be about choice.

And that comes from Understanding, and that comes from actually Talking about Perspectives, Alternatives, Realities and Choices, and then changing them.

Understanding is badly needed from both sides of the consumer/provider relationship. You can not see the other side of the fence until you either ask what’s over there or, and no body want’s this, you fall off the fence and land flat on your face on the other side.

In my life I’ve spent nearly 12 years in hospitals, some as a patient and some in nursing and you know what? Which ever side of the fence I was on it was always My side. And it is different over here. Let me show you…

The biggest problem of integration comes when it causes Conflict brought around by Forced Compromise. It shouldn’t be about trying to create conditions where everyone is relatively the same, Integration should be about creating conditions where people with differences can share an experience of life alongside the limitations and expanded horizons of their differences.

Integration should not be hard, expensive, guilt fostering or requiring legislation. It should simply happen by talking and of course by the application of practical solutions. And if that learning hasn’t happened for you or your company or organisations yet, well, you are never too old or too stupid to learn.

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