Black, disabled and still waiting

For more than 10 years research and literature have explored race
and disability issues. So one would be forgiven for thinking that
by now agencies would have been able to move forward the debate and
improve provision significantly.

It is somewhat worrying that, more often than not, we still find
ourselves as black disabled people being called upon to explain
what the issues are for us and what we need from services. At the
moment there are some opportunities to do things differently but
these have to be grasped. For example, the current emphasis on user
involvement should offer a framework for involving us, as black
disabled people, in the design, delivery and evaluation of services
rather than just consulting us as part of some research project.

This will work only if user involvement is made interesting,
relevant and meaningful to the lives of black disabled people. It
is important to remember that non-disabled black people may have a
valuable and significant role to play in terms of accessing people
and taking on an advocacy role, but this is not a substitute for
user involvement.

A practical way to effect changes in services is through direct
payments. The current take-up of direct payments by black disabled
people may be low because they seem a complex, daunting and unduly
cumbersome way to meet one’s needs. But, with resources put into
appropriate support services and using different models of working,
direct payments can open up a range of options to enable black
disabled people to put together a tailor-made package of

Recruiting and training black people are often heralded as the
essential ingredients for improving services. But if policies and
working practices do not change and an environment is not created
where there is a real willingness to respond sensitively and
appropriately to black disabled people, such initiatives will make
no notable difference.

Racism, language barriers, disablism, limited resources and
conflicting demands will be some of the factors that prevent
progress in improving services for black disabled people. However,
it is essential that it is recognised that meeting the needs of
black disabled people is not something that can be dismissed as
some sort of political correctness, but that it is a duty placed on
agencies by the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 and the
Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

Nasa Begum lives and works in London.

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