Wales, United Kingdom
Jon Luxton talks about the importance of studying social model of disability. He is a Disability Equality Specialist Advisor for Welsh Government and highlights an importance of disabled people to be seen in high profiles roles. Jon also comments on discrimination towards people with impairments and gives idea what we could all do to help with that problem.
Jon says "Nobody in general life has a right to know anything about my impairment unless I choose to share it - It’s not public property. When it comes to my disability, everyone needs to know about these disabling barriers (physical, attitudinal and structural), because everybody has a responsibility to remove the barriers that disable people with impairments in their everyday lives. The discourse should always be around disabling barriers and solutions, and not people’s bodies or mind. When we discuss our bodies or mind, it often results in pity – the opposite of what we want."
When Jon was elected as a councillor, his intention was always to become mayor - which he achieved. "This was because I wanted a disabled person to be seen in that high profile role. Role models are crucial when challenging public perception."
Jon would like others to acknowledge social model of disability. A word model means that it's a concept and a the way of thinking. There are a number of models and all of them approach disability in different ways. Social model of disability states that "people have impairments but that the oppression, exclusion and discrimination people with impairments face is not an inevitable consequence of having an impairment, but is caused instead by the way society is run and organised." To find out more about that concept please take a look past the diagram below and Inclusion London website below.
Jon says that living with discrimination as a daily event can be very difficult. "When your life opportunities are being damaged by other people’s attitudes and values (disability), attitudes and values that can result in poverty and social isolation, it often results in mental illness which has nothing to do with their impairment. Has a disabled person, I quickly realised that power in general and control of my own life was key."
How to reduce discrimination then? "Non-disabled people need to take responsibility for the damage they cause to disabled people, even if unintentional. We as a society, expect white people to not be racists, but regarding ableism, society doe not in general even admits that it exists. "
Jon has ideas how we could raise more awareness of the discrimination that disabled people face. Some of them are:
- The UK needs to fully incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of disabled people.
- More disabled people in public life
- More public / cultural visibility
- Include disabled people into celebaty culture
- Close Special Schools and have a fully integrated education system
- Implement the Social Model alongside co-production
When it comes to accessibility in Wales Jon says that Cardiff offers very good access. "Some people say it is the most accessible city in the UK, however, this cannot be said for most of Wales, especially the small towns and semi-rural locations. There needs to be major investment in the railway system across the whole of Wales, while the bus system needs to be made accessible within small towns and semi-rural/rural locations."
Besides accessibility in Wales Jon tells how it looks in other places as well since he travelled to many of them.
"Each place poses problems and benefits, with some countries being more accessible than the UK, while others are much worse. Good information is key. While information is getting more available, particularly through blog and review sites, not all is available. Using booking.com offers advantages here because they offer access information, and if the hotel turns out not to be accessible, booking.com will ring around to find one that is.
For wheelchair users, one of the big problems is when the airline will not allow you to store your wheelchair in the cabin. This is a problem because airlines do lose luggage, and that includes wheelchairs. When I was in Doha, Qatar Air lost my wheelchair for 6 hours and I have heard many horror stories from others including broken wheels which are not easy to replace quickly. "