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I’m worried I’ll say or do the wrong thing…

…is a comment we hear over and over again. People are awkward around disability and as a charity, Made with Music want to change that. We work together with disabled people to make all of our events and activities as inclusive as possible, and of course this extends beyond disability and we welcome every kind of family to everything we do. We run training and consultancy for other organisations UK wide to ensure disabled people’s voices are heard and talk about best inclusive practice, while acknowledging that we’re always learning too.

Our charity is founded on the social model of disability; you can find out more in this great video from Shape Arts (watch here). The social model essentially puts the focus on society to change to meet the needs of disabled people, rather than people having to change to fit society. We consider what people need, rather than their medical conditions, and try to put as much as we can in place to meet those needs and acknowledge that every person is an individual. One of the reasons that you’ll (almost!) always see two workshop leaders at our work is so that we can ensure that our team can be made up of disabled and non-disabled musicians and everyone’s needs can be met.

So what do I say and do?

Talk as you would to anyone. If you met someone for the first time, would you want them to ask you about your medical history and potentially traumatic past events? No! So why would you ask a disabled person or the parent of a disabled child what happened to them or what their condition is? You could ask if there is anything that they need or that you can help with if it comes up. I will never say no to someone pouring me a hot drink as it’s difficult to see the top of the cup… but in general I prefer not to talk about sight loss on a daily basis, believe me it’s always present in my thoughts! 

Help to facilitate positive interactions between families. If you take children away or stop them asking questions, you give the impression that a disabled child or parent is not to be played with or talked to. It can be tricky to know what to do if someone uses a mobility aid such as a wheelchair, walking frame or a cane, so teach children that it’s ok to be curious and play with the child or young person, but that the aid is not a toy and they should not sit in a wheelchair, touch the wheels, use a cane or move children around. Children are empathetic and quick to understand when we teach them, and we are modelling life skills of how to interact with other people and not exclude them while respecting boundaries. 

Talk to your child about disability. Use opportunities to talk to your children about disability so that they have names for wheelchairs, hearing aids, guide dogs and other mobility aids when they see them. If questions come up about why people need them, it’s a good idea to keep the answers simple rather than focusing on conditions or diagnoses. For example, he uses the wheelchair to help him move around, or she communicates in other ways such as smiling and pointing. We have been recommended the book ‘what happened to you?’ by James Catchpole as a good read if you’d like one (learn more). Put any other book recommendations in the comments and we’ll create a list on our website!

We absolutely love that so many families want to access our work and are teaching us what inclusion means to them. We’re always trying to adapt our advance information, photo and video guides and events to better meet people’s needs. A great example of this in practice is our mini-gigs which have been designed by families and adapted each time to better meet as many needs as possible. Our next gig is this Sunday, 28th April, 12-3pm at the Brudenell Social Club. There are still a few tickets available at 

Let us know if there’s anything else you’d like to see on a blog, either in the comments or by messaging us and we’ll do our best. If you’d like to write a guest blog for us, get in touch too!

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