A light pick banner with ‘How will you use your social superpower?’. On then left there's a pair of hands surrounding a love heart with an arch above that reads ‘empowered practice conversations’ Underneath the hands it reads ‘I pledge to be curious to care to act with courage. This image is all in red. On the other side there is a red stick man/woman in a cape and superhero costume with a star in the centre. The figure is surrounded by a circle of writing that reads ‘empowered practitioner challenging injustices in healthcare’.
Disability Rights

The Importance of Holding Conversations About Empowered Practice

It’s the start of Disability History Month which takes place between November 18th– December 18th and what better way to start the month to have a conversation about empowered practice. 

Over the past month and a half, my friend Millie and I have been planning to host conversations about oppressive/empowered practice to our cohort at university. The first of two sessions have taken place this week.

During these conversations, we discussed issues facing marginalised people e.g. those who are protected under the Equality Act 2010.

Of course, personally, I can only talk about my experiences as a disabled trainee practitioner. Therefore, during this blog, I am going to discuss my experiences of oppression and talk about how this can change moving forward.

Anyone who knows me knows that I hate moaning and being negative as discussed in Mentally Balancing the Positives and Negatives of My Disability. However, this doesn’t mean that I don’t need a good moan as at times, I do and previously I had a negative experience in a lecture. 

I’m not going to lie. I was very angry that I got made an example of, for using the chat feature instead of speaking and the fact that when I explained about my speech impairment I didn’t get an apology was hurtful. I was left feeling quite a little upset and I am still disappointed that situations such as this are still occurring in 2020 as I felt like my individual needs weren’t considered. 

However, I posted this Tweet the day after, even though I wasn’t as upset, angry and hurt. I’d had time to reflect on it, and I still wanted to post the Tweet to raise awareness.  I’m not a disabled activist to be negative about my disability, and I feel strongly that I want my activism to be about how, disability for me, is not a bad thing. On the other hand, I still have to be an advocate and raise awareness when things go wrong to ensure that this doesn’t happen to anyone again, and to do so I need help from my peers… 

Now let’s find out all about what these conversations mean to Millie.

“Hello friends and fans of Georgia Vine, my name is Millie, friend and colleague of Georgia undertaking training to become an occupational therapist. I have a background in nutritional therapy and have taken diverse roles in health and social care for the last decade. I am passionate about things being fair – justice, especially as it relates to those who are at the sharper end of the social gradient. In practice, for me, this is the recognition that for a majority of the marginalised in our communities, they have worse health outcomes and this is perpetuated by structural and historic oppressive mechanisms that provide barriers to access opportunities to health and wellbeing.

I have personal experience of marginalisation that is largely invisible from an outsiders perspective, and therefore I can pass with plenty of privileges. However, the experience I have with my conditions/identity has precipitated a multitude of touchpoints and tensions, that I have needed to navigate and unpack to enable my opportunities to belong in society, in relation to and with others in community. As a result of direct experience and experience through and with others with marginalised identities. 

I am deeply interested in the assumptions of responsibility, and where this responsibility needs to be located – is it up to me to change or do we collectively need to adjust to become and develop more inclusivity? Ultimately, as a practitioner with social power, I believe it’s my responsibility to act courageously in challenging our inequitable society.” 

Millie Pollitt

Millie and I have both similar but yet different views on approaching this topic, and I’ve really enjoyed working with Millie to facilitate these conversations.

Although we have our differences, one thing that we can agree on, is that it all boils down to attitudes, language and terminology.

I wrote a post at the beginning of the year about Establishing Effective Terminology to Minimise Barriers. I still believe everything I said in this post because two wrongs don’t make a right, and people need to be educated in a way that isn’t patronising. Yet, we’re entitled to get mad and say when something is not right and ableist.

As highlighted in this, and numerous posts on NSTP we also need to ensure that the recovery from ableism is effective. Therefore, Millie and I are holding conversations. Not workshops, not training just open discussions where everyone is equal and gets a say.

We understand that these conversations are not easy, and the terminology and politics that enters the conversations are hard to grasp, as it is always evolving and in some cases it can change overnight.  I will hold my hands up, and openly say I still have loads more to learn, and this all starts by having conversations.

Millie and I want to see where these conversations will take us. Hopefully, they will go beyond our university and expand to involve more people with the experience of injustice. It is our goal, to use our role as occupational therapists to open up to the possibility of change, so we have the opportunity to develop more sensitivity, to be able to listen, and act with integrity as allies. 

Thank you for reading,