Are my disability inclusion training sessions safe spaces?
It’s a fair question.
Safety and comfort can be confused when it comes to EDI training. This is because being challenged on views, or having tough truths laid out in front of you is confronting. Especially when we’re used to enjoying the benefits of our relative positions of power and privilege in society. This makes it uncomfortable, but not unsafe. In terms of the training I provide (this is a link to my training courses) there are three things I talk about which fall into the above bracket.
I firmly believe that you cannot talk about breaking barriers to disability inclusion without also talking about the impact capitalism has had on disability. And this is a big one for a lot of people in the comfort stakes. It’s hard to hear how the history and rise of a capitalist system has consistently excluded disabled people, especially when that’s the system through which we make money and pay our bills, and is sort of the reason many of us built our businesses. But it’s a critical part of understanding disability exclusion and changing our behaviours and practices.
2. White Culture
Let me be clear, when I say white culture, what I mean is supremacy culture. Whewwww! It’s hard to read isn’t it? Why is this even relevant to disability inclusion? Welcome to intersectionality! People of colour are disabled too and affected by different levels and operations of oppression. Recognising and understanding how this plays out in the workplace is important.
This list isn’t getting any more light-hearted is it? How on earth does patriarchy have anything to do with disability inclusion? Well, for the full story, you’ll need to book on one of my courses, but for starters it’s worth reading my blog; Professionalism be damned, it never suited me anyway. Patriarchal structures are behind a lot of the standards and etiquette that is woven into our workplaces and often they are at odds with inclusive practices and systems that enable disabled people to work in ways which work for them.
This combination, this trifecta of oppression if you will, is at the root of most systemic barriers in society today. Not talking about them is easy, focusing purely on EDI tips and tricks, policies and cultures, even referring to general ‘systemic barriers’ feels so much more comfortable. So much simpler. But without understanding the underlying structures of oppression and how we unwittingly reinforce them, it’s much harder to take those barriers down for good.
The honest answer is that my disability inclusion training sessions are safe, but at times can be uncomfortable. Even now, when creating these training sessions, I’m often put in a place where I have to confront and unlearn thoughts, beliefs and behaviours as my own journey progresses. And that’s how it should be, it’s how I know I’m heading in the right direction. I know that some people reading this, if they get this far, will be put off by one, two, or even all three of these subjects listed above. And that’s ok. These are Big Things. We come to them when we are ready. My Intro to Disability in PR session is a great place to start.