Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Getting started

I have been thinking for a bit about writing a blog on equalities and inclusion for local Unitarian communities. My two previous blogs on governance and developing spiritual community have come to a natural end or at least reached the time for an extended sabbatical. I have just written a piece for the NUF (National Unitarian Fellowship) Viewpoint  about my volunteering at the Paralympics and this has spurred me on to get going with this blog.

Equalities and inclusion are big subjects so I may well ask for guest posters. My experience is based on work in the voluntary sector and social care; training as a social worker; planning social care services for people with a range needs; working in disadvantaged neighbourhoods; and writing equalities policies. My experience will be peculiar to me - my gender, my age and my life experience. Talking about equalities' issues to people whop have had little or no training can induce a level of anxiety because people fear that (a) they will use the wrong language; (b) they will be accused of having all sorts of prejudices; and (c) they think that they have no experience of working with diverse needs.

The first thing that can be asked of any of us is that we show respect to all people and that we commit to learning - from the written word and from direct experience i.e. talking with people. There is often no agreement about what is the best thing to do e.g. which font works best for those with sight impairments. But it is not about getting it right - it is about recognising that there is an issue and attempting to resolve it or at least make things a bit better. All surveys that I have done show that the one thing that makes a real difference is people's attitudes. A willingness to listen and a willingness to help.

My intention is to look at our own local communities and identify what the issues might be, how we can encourage inclusion and what resources there may be around to help with this.

P.S. I have used a picture of the 2012 Paralympic Sitting Volleyball contest - the woman wearing number 7 is Martine Wright - she lost both her legs in the London 7/7 bombing and now plays for the GB sitting volleyball team.