A collective responsibility to remove barriers

By Kimberly Myhill, Equal Lives
Equal Lives is a user-led disability rights organisation working across Norfolk and Suffolk. Our work is based on the Social Model of Disability, meaning we approach support as a way of removing barriers to independence.
Published in Norfolk Director Magazine Autumn|Winter 2022

Giving Back: Equal Lives

The Social Model teaches us that someone can identify as disabled if they are experiencing barriers to independence. It is the collective responsibility of government and society to remove these barriers, making the world accessible for everyone.

An example could be someone not reaching out for help about their mental health because of the stigma and fear of being judged. The barrier here is social attitudes towards mental illness. Another is someone who can’t access their local shop because it has a step. The barrier is the step, which could be a ramp. Disabled people aren’t the only ones affected by this; people pushing prams would also find this a barrier.

When you adopt the Social Model, you see the world differently. You start to see solutions where you once saw problems.

Everyone has a role to play

Individuals and employers have a role to play here. If you work somewhere and identify a barrier, even if it’s not affecting you or anyone in the company right now, addressing it with your employer could make your workspace accessible for new staff or volunteers, and show the company’s dedication to inclusivity.

If your friends or family use outdated language or have attitudes about an illness that might prevent someone from asking for help, you can help to reframe their thinking using the Social Model.

We all experience barriers sometimes, but disabled people often don’t have the option to remove these barriers themselves.

We offer a Disability Equality Workshop at Equal Lives, which can be tailored for your organisation. We find that it’s a fantastic way to open up conversations and challenge perceptions, helping to shift thinking about accessibility and what it looks like.

Businesses can have a workshop delivered remotely or in person (COVID19 safety permitting), and we can accommodate groups of up to 20 people at a time.

Businesses can also sponsor a scooter at our Shopmobility site. Shopmobility is a mobility scooter and/or wheelchair rental scheme that lets users access the city centre. This could be for shopping or leisure, attending an appointment or community group, or spending time outdoors.

The best part of our service is that we can make the service FREE for the user due to grant funding. This is a recent decision, as the service did previously come with a charge, but we wanted to remove as many barriers as possible and ensure those who really need to access Shopmobility, can afford to do so. Sponsorship enables this.

Some of our customers have told us that using this service allows them to go out for the first time in months, some since pre-pandemic.

We have volunteers who help us keep the site clean and tidy, greet customers, get them signed up, and help maintain the scooters and wheelchairs and accessible toileting facilities. We’re always looking for more volunteers, so please get in touch with us if interested.

A collective responsibility to remove barriers 1

Kimberly Myhill is Development Manager at Equal Lives

E: communications@equallives.org.uk
Or visit www.equallives.org.uk

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