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Ethnic Minorities

Within different models of disability, disabled children can be discriminated against as a direct result of their disability. This may be through direct hostility and aggression, or more subtle forms such as lack of access to a building or being made to feel unwelcome at a leisure centre or mainstream play scheme. The medical model treats the patient and their ailments, not the individual. It "reduces complex social and interpersonal problems to matters of the individual failing or "dysfunction." (Thompson 2000. p17.) The social model of disability focuses on the individual as part of a system, where society is often responsible for limitations rather than the individual, such as a lack of access to a building for a wheelchair user. The individual is not responsible for their own exclusion, since their disability alone does not prevent them from being included or gaining access. It is society that disables the individual through a lack of awareness, through ignorance and through services seeing disability as an "add on" or an "after thought." "The social model of disability proposes that barriers and prejudice and exclusion by society (purposely or inadvertently) are the ultimate factors defining who is disabled and who is not in a particular society." (Thompson 2003.) Society and the people that live in it, the architects, politicians, shop owners, police, city workers, teachers, chefs, all of us that contribute to the society in which we live in are responsible for this, since society is not a static concept. Society is shaped by the people that create it and function within it. It is created by all of us and therefore we must all be responsible for its flaws, including those that contribute to the oppression and discrimination of disabled children and adults.

"Discrimination and oppression are social and political matters as well as psychological, and so a collective approach to challenge is needed rather than a blanket approach." (Thompson 2000. p164.)

Therefore, all members of a society should be working together to ensure all individuals within that society have equal opportunities, indifferent of race, religion, gender, class, sexuality, culture or disability. All of us should be functioning in an anti discriminatory way to ensure everyone in life has an equal chance to achieve their full potential. "Anti-Discriminatory Practice" is vital in order to challenge discrimination. This is;

"The unfair or unequal treatment of individuals or groups; prejudicial behaviour acting against the interest of those people who characteristically tend to belong to relatively powerless groups within the social structure (women, ethnic minorities, old or disabled people and members of the working class in general). Discrimination is therefore a matter of social formation as well as individual/group behaviour or praxis." (Thompson 1997 p.32.)

However, Western society is not currently functioning in this way and many would argue that this is an unachievable ideal towards an unrealistic "utopia" society. "There is a problem in setting limits to the range of egalitarianism. Views on equality will depend on theories that influence behaviour. The practical rather than the moral scope of inequality have distinguished between equality of outcome and equality of opportunity/Few would describe the capitalist societies in which welfare states have flourished as equal." (Alcock 1998. p38.)

For children who are disabled and from black or other minority ethnic communities, they clearly face "double discrimination," (Shah 1992,) since services that do exist often are not accessible or culturally sensitive to the needs of these communities. These communities are often labelled as "hard to reach" when the reality is often that our services are "hard to access."

Furthermore, research carried out by the "School of Health and Social Welfare" at the Open University reviewed literature on access to short breaks by black families, and carried out interviews with children and young people, parents, short break carers and scheme organisers. They found that "disabled children"s services do not adequately cater for black children, and services for black and minority ethnic groups do not adequately cater for disabled children. This means that black disabled children "fall through the net." (2002.)

Finally, there is an assumption that families from black and ethnic minority communities have extended families and large supportive networks to support parents and carers of children with disabilities in their caring roles. "The prevailing stereotype in the UK and in other Westernised countries is that families from minority ethnic groups have large supportive and extended family networks and therefore neither need nor want service support." (Hatton et al 2004.) However, this is not necessarily the case. Some families report high levels of practical and emotional support from partners. However, support from the community is often generally small. "Furthermore, South Asian families receive less support from extended family networks compared to white families in similar circumstances." (Hatton et al 2004. p12.) Subsequently, assumptions should not be made and stereotypes should not be presumed as accurate, since every family should be assessed as individuals with specific, individual needs. Where there is a child with a disability within a family, no matter what there ethnicity, they should be entitled to short breaks support to ensure that long term, the child can remain within the care of their own family.

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