The Lark Ascending.
It's been a good week. I've been doing what I love best (well almost!!). I've been in darkest Berkshire, if there is such a thing, at a training college in Sunningdale. The large public sector organisation that I work for has run Positive Action for Disabled People courses for about 15 years now and I have been lucky enough to be involved for the last seven years in one form or another.
For the last four years I have been my employers departmental trainer on these events, working alongside a truely remarkable man, who I will call Mr C. Mr C is the most inspirational man I have ever met. Our own Lady Bracknell knows him too and has mentioned him in dispatches. He has run a disability training and consultancy business for the last 25 years or so and has touched many lives with his philosophy on disability. He has installed in many, the view that it is society that disables us and that the old view (and medical model of disability) that it's our medical condition that is the causes disability is not valid. I make no apologies if you do not agree with this I'm afraid. To go into all of his philosophy would take up a number of books (of which I'm glad to report there are soon to be several) so I'll just say that without him I wouldn't be who I am today.
Mr C and I work very well together. He is old enough to be my father, but our working relationship is strenghtened by our friendship. We are always laughing in the classroom. He gives me such a hard time but I'm glad to report that he has created a monster and I give as good as I get now. I think the atmosphere we create in the classroom really helps in what is at times, a very heavy subject. Quite often, the delegates we get are in a very bad place. Some have a newly acquired impairment and are grieving for their old lives. This may seem a bit melodramatic, but I truely believe that some people (if not all) who acquire a disability go through this process. Not only do they have to deal with the new condition and all that brings, but also have to deal with loss. As well as the effect their condition has on family and friends. It's something that Mr C tackles with a positive attitude. There is plenty of empathy, but we really try not to let people turn into, what Mr C calls 'Opera Singers' (me, me, me). The course programme explains rights under DDA 1995 and the Human Rights Act, that delegates can use if they have to. This alone can have a profound affect. Knowing that you can't just be sacked because you are a disabled person is very empowering and it's surprising just how many people have never heard of the legislation.
More importantly though is Mr C's personal philosophy. We are bombarded with negative images surrounding disability. People are portrayed as either pathetic cripples, or brave soldiers. The course has been designed to drive a Sunshine Bus through all of this crap and show disabled people that there is nothing 'wrong' in being disabled. In fact, we show that it is bloody brilliant. That being positive about being a disabled makes life so much better. In fact it makes it exciting. As we say 'Disability is a way of life'. It's who I am and who I want to be.
This is the kind of work I would love to do full time and it's something I want to look into doing as a complete change of career. There are organisations out there that are crying out for both Postive Action and Disability Awareness training, and I have been lucky enough to deliver both with Mr C.
Mr C is on the verge of retiring now, although many of the organisations he works for won't let him, and he is pushing me to take over some of his contracts. Just him mentioning this to me is a tremendous honour, if a little scary, and he told me this week that he has been putting my name about to some of his clients (without my knowledge, the tinker).
So it looks like I might have to pull my finger out and look at that change of career. It will need planning as I have a safe job and a good wage. I'd need enough money to survive, and of course a proper portfolio of courses, but I've had some thoughts recently about some of my target clients. It will take a lot of hard work and research but maybe it's time to do something about it.