My experience as a Canning House & King's College Fellow
- Adriana Massidda
Dr Adriana Massidda, the first beneficiary of a new Visiting Fellowship scheme, reflects on the experience.
The audience heard from Ana Lucía Arellano, President of RIADIS and Chair of International Disability Alliance; Dr Lisa Cameron MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Disability; and Rachel Hobbs, EU Settlement Scheme Project Coordinator at the Latin America Disabled People’s Project (LADPP). Beatriz Araujo, Canning House Chair and Corporate Partner at Baker McKenzie, chaired the event.
Dr Cameron spoke about the barriers disabled people face entering politics, and some of the strategies being developed to make UK Parliament more inclusive. Dr Cameron welcomed measures such as the Parliamentary work placement and Apprenticeship Programme and the recent move by the government to make disability inclusion a cross-cutting issue through its incorporation in the new equalities hub in the Cabinet Office. Dr Cameron also acknowledged the usefulness of turning to the Latin American region for innovations in disability inclusion, observing that in many Latin American countries there is greater representation of disabled people in parliament.
Dr Cameron also acknowledged the usefulness of turning to the Latin American region for innovations in disability inclusion, observing that in many Latin American countries there is greater representation of disabled people in parliament.
Ana Lucía Arellano noted that the Latin American region shows real progress in terms of implementing legislation to protect disabled people’s rights, recognising in particular the advancements made in Ecuador, Colombia and Argentina. RIADIS has helped push for a number of changes at a global level, most recently the creation of a UN Disability Inclusion Strategy (UNDIS) and the Security Council’s adoption of a resolution on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities in Conflict. However, progress in the region has not been linear, and in many countries and communities, disabled people are still stigmatised and marginalised. For change to be meaningful, Arellano pointed to the importance of engaging diverse sectors at all levels of society, as well as the international community – identifying the UK as a key partner.
Arellano pointed to the importance of engaging diverse sectors at all levels of society, as well as the international community – identifying the UK as a key partner.
Finally, Rachel Hobbs spoke about some of the additional obstacles Latin American disabled people experience accessing services in the UK, including language barriers, ineligibility for government disability grants and lack of information about what services are available. LADPP help their service-users overcome these challenges through wellbeing, representation and welfare projects, and believe that central to creating more opportunities for disabled people is opening up fully inclusive spaces and introducing more workplace flexibility. Volunteering programmes are a useful platform to achieve both these goals. Hobbs quoted her colleague as reflecting “through my role as a volunteer I found my space. I regained my space in the community”.
“Through my role as a volunteer I found my space. I regained my space in the community.”
Questions from the audience touched on what role academic research can play in reinforcing disability policy and service delivery, ways we can shift public opinion about who ‘should’ be in politics, the possibility that advances in technology could lead to greater exclusion rather than inclusion of people living with disabilities, and approaches to making sure lived experience remains at the heart of disability policy-making.
Thanks to our inspiring speakers and engaged audience for such a thought-provoking discussion. More information on the next event in the series coming soon.
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