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By Denise Nanni and Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik. In the following, another interview about disabled people and how to empower them. We spoke to Tracey Jannaway, Director of Independent Living Alternatives, an initiative promoting independent living since 1989 and working in London. What disabled people want, is empowerment, control over their lives, and this should be considered when we help them. Independent life of disabled people should be our final aim. It is a long struggle, but it is worth it. And this is only possible if we promote a tolerant society who does not discriminate people with disabilities.
What are the main (social, institutional and practical) difficulties people with disabilities face nowadays?
Attitudes from society are still poor; perceptions of disability as negative and people searching for a cure or to eradicate disability; financial aspects in these current times of austerity people worry about funding from the government for income and for care. People are also risk adverse worrying that it might be dangerous for the disabled person or that society must “look after” disabled people but have a misperception of what a person wants. IE you need to risk assess going on holiday because you are disabled or I need to check that you are OK because you are disability. The general perception is that disabled people are always vulnerable. However, if they are given the right support disabled people are active and equal members of society.
What are the most common ways through which you help people with disabilities in order to empower them?
ILA provides user controlled personal assistance placing the disabled person in control of the services that they need in order to live independently. This enables people to self-determine their own lives, to do what they want, when they want to do it.
What are the practices that you found to be more effective into the process of empowerment?
Enabling people to have direct control over every aspect of their lives and enabling people to make life choices and mistakes in order to work out what they want.
I saw that in your site there is a volunteering program. Would you like to explain how it works?
The volunteering programme is an opportunity primarily for people from overseas to work with disabled people in London to understand and explore disability issues in the UK. Volunteers receive pocket money and accommodation in return for working for a disabled person for 6 months to one year.
Do you cooperate with the public sector? Do you think that public institutions should do more in this field? If yes do you have any suggestion for institutions/policy makers?
ILA works with the public sector to identify people who may want a user controlled service and we work to promote the concept of user autonomy and the rights of disabled people to live independently. It is difficult to make changes when people are very risk adverse and ILA’s role is to endeavour to change society’s perception and also to empower the disabled people who want to manage their own personal assistance.