Disability Training: What’s in a Name?

Disability Training: What’s in a Name?

I have recently been travelling all over the place delivering disability training to a wide range of people. The various disability

training has been well received by everyone.


As a disability trainer I am aware of the arguments that exist around what constitutes disability equality training and what constitutes disability awareness training. Frankly, I think some get far too concerned about what differentiates the two types of disability training and far more pressing disability issues exist.


As someone who delivers disability training I wanted to address a few of the points I have heard in relation to what disability training should and should not be. Here is the Making Lemonade stand:


You can argue what differentiates disability awareness training from disability equality training, but whatever you call it or whatever it constitutes the effectiveness of the training will depend largely on the trainer. This is the same for all training – the content is important but how it is delivered is the key to how effective it is.


It is said: ‘Disability Training Should be Delivered By a Disabled Person’

There are strong arguments held that disability training should be delivered by a disabled trainer. I agree with this statement, but I am quick to make the point that living with a disability does not automatically make you a good trainer.


I am still astonished at the amount of times participants write on my feedback forms that they were not looking forward to the disability training. They say this is because the last disabled trainer who delivered disability training made them feel guilty. This tells me that being a trainer who lives with a disability does not necessarily make you a good trainer. Taking a militant approach to disability training actually has the reverse effect that the training is designed to have.


Participants with little or no knowledge of disability issues should be made to feel welcome as these people are set to really benefit. Even those who have prior knowledge, or live with an impairment themselves, will have something to take away from the training if delivered well.


It is said: A Disability Trainer Should Not Talk About Their Own Experiences

Yes, a disability trainer should not focus on their experiences but in my opinion a disability trainer should not shy away from short, relevant anecdotes. It  makes no sense to me to say disability training should be delivered by a disabled person but they should not pool on their experiences. Surely, it might as well be delivered by a non-disabled person in that case! The benefit is that a disabled trainer can make the training personal and relevant!


However, I do believe that personal anecdotes should be relevant and used sparingly and I understand the argument that disability equality and disability awareness training should not be about the individual delivering the training.


My feedback forms often say that the personal experiences I share help put the issues in context and make them real. That should be the objective of any disability training.


It is said: Disability Training Should Not Describe Different Impairments

Of course, disability training should not stereotype people by impairments. I mean, for goodness sake, that is a given! However, disability encompasses such a wide range of impairments that there are times when it will be necessary to talk about certain impairment groups.


For example, I have recently been delivering disability training to event organisers. I have been suggesting how they might market their events to blind and partially sighted people and how they might market their events to deaf and hard of hearing people. By definition they are different due to the nature of the different impairments.


If the overall message is not to make assumptions; to take your lead from the disabled person and treat them equally in doing so, you will be delivering best practise.


It is said: You Should Not Simulate Sensory or Physical Impairments

I understand why many believe ‘playing at disability’ (as they see it) is patronising and insulting to disabled people.


On the other hand, some of the big sight loss charities use simulation specs (glasses that give an indication of what different types of sight losss can look like)within their visual awareness training. I know many visually impaired people who feel this gives sighted people an idea of what it is like to be visually impaired.


This notion of simulating a disability does not sit all that well with me. This is largely because it can shock participants into feeling sorry for disabled people. I do not want participants to feel that a disability is a tragedy or something to be pitied.


There are ways to communicate how to reduce or remove barriers without simulating an impairment so this is the option I tend to take.


I say…..

Both disability equality training and disability awareness training should:


  • Introduce the      social model of disability
  • Explore what      disables people in society
  • Discuss      myths, misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding disability
  • Promote      disability as an equality issue
  • Give an      overview of disability legislation
  • Be      interactive and non-judgemental
  • Be made      relevant to the audience


Making Lemonade disability awareness training tends to be aimed at front line staff. It covers the above with greater emphasis on:


  • Good practice      when communicating with disabled people
  • Latest thinking      on language and terminology
  • Possible      reasonable adjustments to provide an equal service
  • To feel more      confident to respond to the needs of disabled customers and colleagues.


Making Lemonade disability equality training tends to be aimed at policy makers, employers and decision makers. It covers the above with greater emphasis on:


  • In-depth look      at disability legislation and how it applies to the participants
  • Creating      positive policy
  • Understand      what needs to happen to translate good policy into good practice
  • Feel more      confident to implement best practice


All disability training content is based on discussions with my clients. The important thing is not what it is called. The important thing is that it meets the needs of the participants in the room.


Get in touch if you would like to chat about how either of these types of training may benefit your organisation.




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