In 2015, a group of young disabled Londoners decided to reach out to other young disabled people and empower them with knowledge, leadership, and inspiring role models. The result? An award winning documentary, screened at The Houses of Parliament, bringing together the disabled community to make employment more accessible.
One in five people in the UK have a disability. Of those, less than half are in employment, compared to 80% of people who are not disabled.
Together with the Can Do partnership from Talent Match London, Creative Opportunities, a social enterprise that facilitates creativity, empowered a group of young disabled Londoners to make a difference to the employability prospects of disabled people in the UK.
“Before joining the Working With Disability project, I was very nervous,” says Shewlly, one of the young participants. “It was nerve-wracking because I didn’t know what to expect. It changed my perspective because when you see vulnerable people you want to work with them and go out there and see what best possible way you can help.”
Along with five other young disabled people, Shewlly started to research and discuss the most effective ways of empowering disabled people and starting a public conversation about disability in the workplace.
“When we brought the group together to create and test some solutions to unemployment, we all agreed that portrayal of disability in the media was an issue” says Ashar Smith, Director at Creative Opportunities. “Public perception of disabled people is often incorrect, and there was a common stereotype of disabled people being on benefits without contributing to society. The media shapes public opinion. We wanted to make our own media that more accurately demonstrates the relationship between disability and employment.”
The team started to search for people in their communities who were willing to speak about their experiences working as a disabled person.
“We wanted contributors of diverse ages and in different areas of work to show a variety of experiences; from people who have started work after overcoming obstacles related to their disability, to people who became disabled while at the peak of their career.” says Ashar.
In Working With Disability, six disabled people living in London share their experiences of employment, and look to the future to see how a more inclusive workforce can benefit everyone.
Working With Disability raises awareness of important issues that are central to improving employment for people who have a disability. It shows that personal circumstances need to be understood to find the best solutions. The documentary challenges negative stereotypes and breaks down stigma around disability.
Creative Opportunities delivered workshops in which the group developed their film production skills, knowledge of policies that affect disabled people, publicity and social media, event management and public speaking.
Creative Opportunities premiered Working With Disability in the UK Houses of Parliament, and invited prominent disability and employment activists Graeme Ellis, Andy Greene, John Horan, Adil Latif, and Kirsty McHugh to speak on a panel during the event. (You can find out more about each panellist by clicking on their name.)
The film was received with enthusiasm by the audience, and the panel discussion that followed was powerful, informative and dynamic. Audience members and the young disabled people who had created the film had the opportunity to ask the panel members questions following the screening.
“By consulting disabled people and developing collective solutions, Creative Opportunities hopes that real legislative and cultural change will happen in the UK.” says Ashar. “We know that everyone who contributed to this project is going to make a real difference to how disability is perceived and their work will promote an inclusive, diverse and representative society.”
You can watch the film Working With Disability on YouTube by clicking here.
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