Understand Each Person's Roles

I have learned many lessons about organising from organising the April Inclusion Workshop. One thing I have learned is that we need to be very clear with people we employ about what they will be expected to do and for how long, and to convey that to the workshop leader and make sure that it is stuck to. Because we are so used to working ourselves so hard, we have had a tendency to exploit people that we employ. I have had quite a bit of feedback about this, particularly from sign language interpreters, and in this case they made us pay for it. Fair enough.

Actually, given that it was a workshop for ninety people, and there were quite a number of non-paying support people and four free places shared out between the young people, the loss could have been much worse. If I had asked the participants to each pay five pounds more, we would have comfortably covered the costs. We do, however, have a lot of thinking to do about many issues surrounding inclusion - interesting issues around using paid sign language interpreters and personal assistants and around people who cannot participate fully without a support person.

I had a lot of good feedback from the disabled participants about how much easier it was for them to simply be at the workshop because of the extra resource. I am sure it was worth doing in the way that we did it, because it nudged at the boundaries of what seems possible and everyone got a little glimpse of what a truly inclusive world might look like.

However, we need to think about how we, as an organisation, treat employees, if we decide that employing people is a rational road to go down. I'm not convinced that it is, although I can understand why to many people it seems that way. I have spent a lot of time talking with the people we have been employing recently in England, and there seems to be a few different issues coming up.

1) Overworking and underworking. We have tended to overwork interpreters and underwork personal assistants. Neither is a comfortable situation for the workers.

2) Trying to recruit into RC. A lot of people desperately try to recruit into RC the workers, who, rightly, are there to do a job and don't want to have to keep protecting themselves from eager RCers trying to "give them sessions."

3) Lack of clarity. We are not being very clear about what we expect of the workers, and they are sometimes confused. Because the sign language interpreters' job entails being up front, having their attention out, and communicating what the leader is saying, they are very attractive. It seems that RCers get confused around them and (a) encourage them to get involved personally in the workshop, which is against their very strict professional guidelines, or (b) client at them and the deaf people they are interpreting for about how wonderful they are.

I worry that organisers will get the message that to make a workshop inclusive all one needs to do is spend money on employing professional carers - which is very much within the oppressive pattern. I will think about this with some other allies, as I have tended to think about it only with disabled people, who, understandably, feel desperate about being included and undoubtedly feel more comfortable with professional carers around. This is especially true since the ones we have tended to employ have been through agencies with a high degree of awareness about disability issues. I know it often seems to the disabled RCers that the professionals are the only people at the workshop who understand their issues. This has been particularly true with interpreters.

Heather Parker
Coventry, England

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00