User Empowerment for People with Disabilities – our Interview with Disability Partnership

By Milena Rampoldi and Denise Nanni, ProMosaik. In the following an interview with Dave Thompson of the organisation Disability Partnership in the UK. We asked him questions about integration of people with disabilities, about the services his organisation offers, and about general problems peopel with disabilities face. ProMosaik struggles for non-discrimination of people with disabilities according to the princple that diversity enriches our life and experience, by extending our horizon and knowledge. We have so much to learn from people with disabilities. Thanks to Dave for his participation and his time to answer to our questions. 

 What is independent living and how it improve the life’s quality of people with long term health conditions? 
Independent living is a term used to describe a level of choice and control that disabled people, and people living with long term health conditions have over lives and work. 

As the majority of our team of staff and volunteers at Warrington Disability Partnership have years of experience of living with a disability or long term health condition, they are experts on a wide range of matters including housing, equipment, employment, transport, etc. Together we share our life experiences to help others through a range of information, advice and guidance. 

In which way do you make contact with people that can have benefits from your work? How are you spreading useful information about independent living?
We offer a range of 27 services aimed at improving mobility and independent living. These services are located in publicly accessible facilities including our Centre for Independent Living which offers a one stop shop of services, and several services that are located within the town centre. 
Our staff and volunteers are heavily involved in the community, attending dozens of meetings each month, and staffing exhibition and information stands at venues across the town. 

Do you cooperate with any local authorities or schools/universities?
We work very closely with our local statutory partners including health and social care providers. We operate a number of contracts that they find including employment, independent living and education and training services. 
Do you think that institutions could do more in order to address the empowerment of people with long term health issues?
During the past 25 years I have travelled widely across Europe and the Middle East. I found a wide disparity between institutions that provided excellent services which encouraged and supported on their own lives. Sadly, I also found a number of institutions which created institutional behaviour where users of services were disempowered and reliant on support staff for basic daily living with little or no choice or control over their lives. 
Do you have any suggestions for institutions and policy makers about this topic?
It’s simple, institutions should look to promote a “can do culture” focus sing on what disabled people and people living with long term conditions “can do”, not what we can’t do. They should look to develop peer support, encouraging shared learning from people with lived experience. 

Our team consists of 52 paid staff and 230 volunteers. This has been developed over 25 years from 3 disabled people who met at a social services day centre in 1991. We believe it’s true “user empowerment”.