The Simon Heng column

I recently read Career Success of Disabled High-Flyers, a
study of successful disabled people. One of the factors for success
identified by the author, Dr Sonali Shah, is a high level of
academic achievement, which, she says, is an argument for
integrated education for disabled children, as specialist teaching
in segregated schools may not be of a sufficiently high

Yet she points out, this may be fine for intellectually gifted
children, but a segregated education can also give all disabled
children (including the high-fliers) a sense of community and of
their own identity, a sense of validation and role-models. In an
integrated school, disabled children are often marginalised,
stigmatised and bullied because of their differences.

Is the same also true for adult service users? These days, people
who are born with learning or physical disabilities are encouraged
to feel that they can be active members of their communities. Those
who acquire their disabilities, whether mental or physical, have
often internalised the low expectations that society has of the
disabled. I’ve heard many say that their lives were over at this
point. If someone has achieved some success before their
disability, they may well have the self-confidence to be successful
afterwards – Frank Williams, of the Williams Formula One team for

For various reasons, including uncertainty over their futures, day
centres have often been places to dump disabled adults, offering
little opportunity for people to move on. But the positive outcome
of day centres has been the same for adults as segregated education
has been for children: a sense of community, validation, even

People who acquire disabilities need to learn how to become a
disabled person, that is, to exist in this society on their own
terms. Day centres, perhaps inadvertently, have helped to do this
for many people. If the people who use day centres are to take a
greater part in their communities, not only do they need to learn
from each other, they will also need help to break the mentality of
dependency, particularly in self-confidence and how to structure
their lives.

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.