Check out this video on YouTube:
I was introduced to Francesca Martinez performing on the stand-up comedy circuit by my Open University tutor as we are currently doing a module on accessibility to e-learning. Francesca has cerebral palsy – she doesn’t let that get in her way. Her brand of sit-down stand-up comedy is infecticious, revealing and timely.
Catch the Saturday 6th September edition of ‘The News Quiz’.
Knowing a number of young people with cerebral palsy I know to be more attentive – just because, to varying degrees, they may struggle to get their words out, does not mean they don’t have something to say. The other lesson is to be open, to be frank – you have to ask openly with them what they can or cannot do, or would like to do or overcome. Even if I had some professional knowledge of a range of disabilities it will still be necessary to discuss with the individual where they stand – something that may shift week on week, in their favour after operations or against if the disease is degenerative. The difference here compared to the general population is accommodation rather than indulgence – it puts into sharp perspective the young person or parent of a young person who pushes and stretches the bounds of indulgence forgetting that life of necessity includes compromise, and give as well as take.
The barriers to this are time, numbers and comprehension – as well as any inherent risks in relation to the learning environment. As a ‘lead educator’ – a teacher or coach, you have to respond to the current situation as it unfolds. It helps to have some sense of who the people are, to know where their individual strengths and weaknesses lie.
If time is one issue, then make more time as a result if preparation, even arrange to meet some students earlier if this is possible so that you can fit in a quick word with them.
If numbers are an issue then be slick with registarations, insist on people turning up in good time and if necessary stagger the start – in some situations an assistant or parent should help out, to guide one person or to pick up on some tasks (the issue here is where a young person is very concsciously trying to be more independent).
If comprehension and communication are an issue, then do the above – give it more time and find ways to cope with the numbers, then be open and accommodating, use common sense to find or be told the best way to communicate – ideally therefore have some kind of hand-over where you can be introduced to the best way forward.
Returning to Francesca Martinez – she held her own and deserved to be on the show – she is funy and spontaneous, blunt and entertaining. She can only be judged on these qualities in this context – access means removing or alleviating barriers to get onto such a stage, it does not mean changing the height if the bar, just as an undergraduate with a disabilitiy starting in higher education having got to this level has to be judged by how they perform, assessed or judged at the same level as other undergraduates. In relation to e-learning this means creating access where there is a barrier, while maintaining standards when it comes to assessment and awarding qualifications.