Facilitating Unfettered Potential
Last week I was in Chile. By invitation of the President of Chile’s Commission for Disability. The purpose of my visit was to participate in a conference of disability specialists to assist and advise the Commission on the development and implementation of its National Disability Strategy.
As the conference progressed, I became increasingly aware of a growing undercurrent of feeling among the disabled people participating. Almost physical in it’s intensity, the pressure I could sense, it transpired, was the manifestation of decades worth of frustration, anger and unfulfilled aspirations.
At the beginning of my talk, I asked the conference, “What are your ambitions and how would you like to spend your spare time”? The disabled participants were most vocal. Their ambitions were all around social inclusion and the ability to participate in mainstream activities. Which they all spoke about with equal passion. Their spare time activities ranged from wanting to enjoy the simple things in life, a great cup of coffee, a good smoke and the company of a beautiful woman, to, in the case of one visually impaired participant, climbing mountains. Which of course demonstrates, if it needed demonstrating, that society is both diverse and similar in the range of ways it’s members desire to participate and express themselves. And it is clear that what people find disappointing, frustrating and infuriating is for these entirely human desires and aspirations to be thwarted by the way our identity is perceived by wider society and it’s institutions.
Last week also saw the granting of royal Ascent for a piece of English legislation called the Deregulation Bill. The purpose of which is, to remove many of the regulations governing business, to facilitate greater freedom to operate and generate greater economic growth.
This leads me to wonder. What might our society look like, if a similarly facilitative legal framework were adopted to enable all of us, whatever our identities and circumstances, to pursue a fulfilling life and contribute to society.
It seems to me that this would go beyond the necessary legal protection afforded by equality legislation. It would embrace the principles and values of fundamental human rights conventions. It could build on these by establishing a framework that would both remove structural and institutional barriers and equip people as necessary, to enable their individual development, economic participation and social progress. By facilitating people to bring to bear our assets, as English business has been unburdened by the Deregulation Act, seems to me could achieve for society, what the UK government believes this new law will do for the economy.