Associate Musicians Disability Equality Training The Trainers Day – 24 October 2016


When people come together and make music barriers to communication and understanding can come tumbling down.  We also know that music can transform attitudes and change perspectives.

Participants working on Flipcharts.
Associate Musicians exploring experiences of Disability Equality Training.

Organisations often need  support  to go for change.  Organisations may need a supportive push in making inclusion and equality a reality and not just a policy stuck in a file.  Equality & participation are enshrined in Human Rights & Equalities legislation and DET can play a valuable part in ensuring that Rights & Equality is fundementally respected and inclusion a reality.   DET is also about creating a real dialouge with Disabled People.  All that attitude changing and new learning deserves good facilitation & training.

Warning: This blog is slightly longer than I’d usually write but hopefully you’ll feel the time put into reading it will be of interest/value?  Let me know.

So get yourself a cuppa,  get comfy and enjoy reflecting on the day we Associate Musicians explored Disability Equality Training.

Sometimes we don’t always get the full picture of what inclusion looks like, because perhaps we feel we haven’t seen it.  Sometimes we are frustrated because we have seen it, know that it works and we want everyone to catch up with it.

Sometimes we need encouragement to realise why access is more than just a ramp or just a thing we do to help someone participate.  Access is a Right, not a bolt on, an aesthetic, an important tool as part of the creative process.  When it’s there in place it’s obvious, it feels right, natural and we all just get on with it,  making music,  being creative, telling our story, building relationships.

Learning & Facilitating slide by Kolb, 1984. "If the education process begins by bringing out the learners beliefs and theories, examining and testing them, and then integrating new, more refined ideas into the person's belief system, the learning process will be facilitated."
Learning & Facilitating by Kolb, 1984.

We know from experience that not everyone understands why Disability is an Equalities and Human Rights issue.  Not everyone knows what The Social Model of Disability is and importantly, what it means in practice.  We can easily make assumptions and so fears, stereotypes prejudice & discrimination can still exist.

Although just getting on and doing it (music making) is a good thing on it’s own, a little reflection can help to make sense of experience, break down barriers, challenge, change and shape what is happening. It can help to get that bigger picture of why it’s all so important.

The learning Cycle slide - Your experience, reflective activity, further learning and information, testing it out. Praxis is Action, reflection, action.
The learning Cycle – Action, reflection, action.

Ultimately  DET is one tool (not the only tool) that helps change attitudes. A tool that can be used so that ‘the getting on with it bit’ is accessible, inclusive and based on equality.  Many say it is a critical part of helping bring about change. Simply it is a way of turning all those  words or aspirations into a reality that can be seen, felt and experienced.

Disability Equality Training is not the whole answer, but it can be a really useful/important instrument as a catalyst for change. It can be an experience that supports organisations (and an organisation is it’s people) to make the change that’s needed. However like any learning it has to be timely, positive, challenging and facilitated skillfully and effectively. New learning is fragile, especially new ideas or concepts which are dominated by another model, as disability is.

Slide reading: Learning from Experience, Offering Alternative perspective, Learning for Transformation, Creativity.
Experience, Alternative perspective, transformation, Creativity.

So moving on from our Associate Musician development day held earlier in the year. This training event invited a small team of interested AMs to come and explore our starting points of  DET.

The day was an opportunity to:

  • Reflect on our  experience of Disability Equality & Training.
  • Explore what DET looks like.
  • Examine what makes good learning & training
  • Shape how we take DET forward in Drake Music in order to:
    • Strengthen our own practice & understanding.
    • Develop DET as an offer to other partners and organisations who want to:
      • Be more inclusive,
      • Accessible
      • Develop equality for all who participate and contribute.

The challenges in planning & delivering the day:

  • People’s past experience of learning & training
  • DET can be contentious as it reveals and reflects our values & beliefs.
  • Differences in understanding of Disability, equality & inclusion
  • Working in environments/contexts where SEND (a medical model) is the dominant model.
  • The need to address issues of equality & power so that Disabled & non-Disabled people can work & collaborate.
  • Understanding Drake Music as a changing organisation
  • Learning & change can be a fragile thing.


Participants in a discuss circle.
Participants discuss What is DET?


In many ways it was a huge day that could never fully cover everything that we needed to cover.  I had to keep reminding myself  that this was just another step in a bigger process.  We didn’t have to get it all sorted  in one day (Phew, and breathe). It was great to Co-facilitate with Sophie who is always able to be a supportive, critical friend. That is so important when doing this type of work.

So What is Disability Equality Training? – Some themes/areas include:

  • Our Starting Points – building with participants rather than delivering at.
  • Clarity of definition – what do we mean by disability?
  • Language – reflects our understanding, values and beliefs.
  • History – how disability is influenced by our past, the continuity and contrasts.
  • Models of Disability – social, medical, charity, administrative model.
  • Access – broader than just ramps, the aesthetics of access.
  • Discrimination & oppression – how it works/impacts.
  • Independent living / choices & control – how best do you create choices.
  • Frameworks & disability – legislation, organisational, institutional barriers.
  • Power & Empowerment – building on relationship to empower the individual.
  • Diversity & Identity.
  • Disability Culture and Identity.
  • Concepts of inclusion.
  • Concepts of Equality & Human Rights.
  • Action planning.

It was clear during our conversations that there is some important distinctions to be made in approach.  There is many differences between Disability Awareness & Disability Equality Training & the differences are fundamental.

Disability Equality Traing Approach includes:

  • An Equality & Human Rights perspective.
  • Approach & methodology reflects values & beliefs. (social model, experiential learning not simulation or ‘having a go’).
  • Delivered by Disabled People.
  • Content comes from the perspective of Disabled People.
  • A model reflected in Diversity,  Social Justice, A Social Model of Disability.
  • Challenges perception.
  • Encourages creativity -Alternative perspectives
  • Transform perspectives
  • Bring about change.
  • Is an ongoing dialogue – not just a 1 off.
  • Develops shared values & beliefs.
  • Builds on collaborative approaches to change.

What’ & ‘How’ are important, but ‘Why’ is critical.

Facilitators and trainers are often obsessed with methodology, which can lead to being a bit too prescriptive. Filling up a programme full of games & methods, things to do to fill the time.  Of course an engaging, participatory programme that promotes different ways of learning is important but not if it swerves the purpose of being there.

So some key questions in a facilitator’s preparation may need to include:

  • What is the ‘real’ purpose of the get together/the training session?
  • What are the important things that each person wants/needs to  in this session/journey?
  • Where is the space for participants to contribute to share knowledge/experience/needs?
  • Where is the space for all to negotiate, input & shape?

People can get nervous in a learning situation. We don’t like the feeling of having things done to us that catches usout, it creates anxiety.  Anxiety that we might be put on the spot, or that we might get it wrong…and worse than that, it all happens in front of our peers and colleagues. So to support learning, especially around issues that open up people’s attitudes and thoughts, needs to be done skillfully, sensitively and with understanding.

Of course methodology (what, how & when) is important. However the danger in only worrying about this can lead to a prescriptive approach full of activities but which don’t fully meet participants needs.  Space is needed to negotiate and encourage a collaborative way of working ahead.  The learner is then part of what’s happening, it’s done in collaboration, with mutual support & agreement. Of course it’s also critical that methodology is accessible and reflects the values & beliefs we are trying to nurture

Facilitating is about recognising the ‘power relationship’.  Therefor the facilitator needs to be active in supporting learners not to see the facilitator as ‘the one’  with the answers, it’s a different role from teaching. Facilitating is also about not seeing the learner as an ’empty vessels’ (Friere) to be filled with your thoughts. The learner is an equal with experience & knowledge to share.

Knowing why [we are delivering Disability Equality Training] is really important in encouraging attitudinal change and in fostering an atmosphere where we are all learners and can all contribute to the process as facilitators.

My Reflections of DET/The day:

Personally, I feel DET is a life’s journey I’ve been on and is best expressed through my material as an artist. I’ve been working in the field of DET for over 25 years, sometimes on and sometimes definitely off it.  I recognise my understanding & learning is continuous and forever growing and changing. I’ve studied, lived, campaigned, immersed myself, written and protested on the streets. So you can see why I/we might struggle when  asked to ‘do a DET session’ in an hour.

To give DET some perspective, a degree in Disability Studies takes 3 years.  In a previous, job I developed a Surrey University Programme with a module in DET which took 3 days as a minimum to cover some of the above content (plus your own study time on top).

Many organisations want or can only afford (time or money) a 3 hour session so a balance has to be struck in how much training  can achieve in terms of what is being put into it.  Sadly change takes time.  There is a need to invest (not just financially) to make a commitment to engage in the issues & the idea of change if this type of training is to be effective . So for me a 3 hour session or less is always an opportunity, a really important first step, an introduction to DET, a move towards taking further action for change.

Drake Music’s strength in this area is that it has a diverse team exploring, developing & delivering.  All with different levels and amounts of experience & all with lots of knowledge & skills to contribute.

The challenge is to build a team that:

  • Shares the same values and beliefs in the field of DET.
  • Provides continuity & consistent in message, quality & approach.
  • Maintains that diversity in approach.

A lot of ground was covered on the day. All participants contributed a great deal in shaping the way forward.  There was a great energy and commitment to further development. Of course I felt I put far too much material into the day and wished we could have covered things in more depth.  I focused on ‘Why’ mainly because of the need to identify ‘what underpins our practice/content’ from our shared experience.

Content is important but knowing why content is in there &  what impact it will hopefully lead to is equally important.

Sometimes learning is messy and more confusing, for a while at least, apparently thats a good thing because we are trying to make sense of what is important.  We now need time to develop and get a clearer shared picture.  It’s an exciting time.

Many of my colleagues, as I have, will have been here before in developing DET. My hope is we can build on that past experience (DET has been round at least 30 years) and make that experience count with this opportunity.

Sophie’s Reflections:

On reflection, it may have worked better [For us] to “clarify what we mean by DET” at the top of the day but but we didn’t want to set anything too hard & fast out right, as we felt it important not to `lead’ the participants  with our way of thinking to begin, more to bring them to their own thoughts.

My only prior experience of Disability Equality Training, was with John in a session we co-facilitated for a theatre company.  That session seemed to work well because participants were encouraged to express their views and not be worried about right or wrong answers! At times in that session I had struggled, finding it difficult when I disagreed with some of the comments made!  This reminds me that I need to be open to new perspectives that perhaps differ from my own and this is useful learning.

There can be conflicts between Art & Politics (as there was in that particular session) but can politics & Art ever really be separated?  So in other words is it acceptable to have a Drake Music project which isn’t grounded in the ethos of equality and the Social Model (of disability)!?  I very much believe in DE Training; it’s not something I’ve actually wanted to deliver before, as I tend to confuse it  with access audits in context of buildings.. and that’s not really my Cup of Tea!!

I feel ‘good’ DET – and indeed, training in general – is that which keeps people engaged and doesn’t lecture;  Equality training that’s firmly grounded in the Social Model; where disabled people are not Special but are seen as a minority / disenfranchised group alongside other marginalised communities and therefore, face particular challenges and barriers pertaining to disability…

During the day’s training people shared their experiences of training but not specific to DET; it wasn’t until later that it was revealed just how few people had actually attended DET (including me)…

Points covered- Is there a difference between awareness and equality?

Yes I feel there is.  To be crass, Awareness Training is “Let’s all sit in wheelchairs and blindfolds for a day, then we can say we know what it feels like to be disabled”!  Scope’s End The Awkward campaign, feels to me an example of this…

Equality is not about individual impairments; it’s about the Social Model and giving people an understanding of what that really means and how to apply it practically…

In the afternoon session, we did broach the differences but I’m not sure we got very far and I didn’t want to put words into people’s’ mouths or overly `lead’.

What makes good learning – facilitator/ learner/organisation?

I think that’s quite a personal, individual thing.  One element I always struggle with, are exercises that tend to be designed for groups / in pairs and there’s not perhaps, always time to reflect on things in your own time & space.

I like working in a big group because it’s less pressure and possibly because I don’t `Share Well’!

In terms of organisation, ones that are open to learning and new ideas AND WILL THEN PUT THEM INTO PRACTICE!!

People had quite a bit to say here, as several are trainers themselves.. personally I did feel slightly lost!!!

Why do we do DET?

To spread the Social Model far & wide!   I believe disability should be viewed in terms of equality and not individual impairment.

What is the purpose  For Drake Music?

To make the work we do accessible and ensure projects are guided by the principles of DET.  We established that it’s something Drake Music wants so we talked of how best to go about it!

What does a Drake Music DET programme look like?

I’m unsure but feel it needs to be a practical application of Social Model, which includes addressing the role of Support Workers in sessions etc.

Time got short & we broke into 2 groups, to consider how we would approach hypothetical sessions of 1 hour for Drake Music staff & a day’s session in a school, for example.  `My’ group had good discussion about the potential  use of having a video discussing equality – or lack of! – experiences.

Possible ways forward….

Perhaps initial discussion as to whether a week’s intensive training may be appropriate for future facilitators of any possible DET training for Drake Music.

I think it’s important that we bring the `younger generation’ on board, as the landscape is (at least perceived to be) quite different these days and perhaps there is some value in certain aspects of Awareness Raising, if placed in an equality context, having spoken recently with some younger disabled people; discussion needs to be had as to what they feel the barriers to be, in achieving equality.. which may actually differ (or not!) from traditional ones…

We need to ensure that any training given, comes from an agreed definition of DET, on the part of Drake Music & it’s trainers – what DET is and what it is not.  I don’t feel we’re at that point, yet but do feel the Training the Trainer day we had at 336 Brixton road, has set us on that journey…

Pulling this blog together:

Maybe some ways forward to think about as part of Think 20/20 and the future of DET within the work of Drake Music:

  • The use of Webinars to explore ways of learning.
  • Shadowing experienced  DET practitioners to build confidence and experience.
  • Further training to develop skills.
  • Delivery of micro sessions internally to build experience and also develop our organisation.
  • To deliver in collaboration with other practitioners in the field of DET.
  • The need for us all to participate in Disability Equality Training.
  • Continue to develop  Disability Equality Training program support and resources that reflects different delivery styles.
  • Ensure that what is delivered is underpinned by a set of shared values & beliefs that brings about continuity and consistency for those who take up DET.

So, blog (and maybe your cuppa) finished for now.  We’d love to hear your thoughts, so please do comment on anything that the above blog might have sparked off in your thoughts:

  • What are your your thoughts on the blog?
  • What are your experiences of DET?
  • What is the Social model of disability for you & what does it mean in practice?
  • How best can DE training contribute in developing Equality & in bringing about change in practice?
  • What does Equality & Inclusion mean to you?