Supporting communities

There is a strange thing about crafts is that it is an activity that can be used to heal communities. It is a reason to bring people together to do something constructive and in the process help them get to know each other better and see the world from each other’s perspectives.

In a sense, this is coming full circle. Well, we had no idea of the needs of those who lived in community projects, whether they were carers or people requiring 24/7 care.

The sad thing is that it is hard promoting Everyone CAN Craft because people are so fearful of being seen as discriminating against people with a  disability. The reality is that not everyone is the same there are a variety of reasons why we are different. Acknowledging our differences is not discriminating against people but it is getting to know people for who they are and accepting them anyway.

The problem with inclusivity is that it is hard.

Someone asked me if there needed to be a number of different flavours of Everyone CAN Craft. The reason for this was the concern that if you said that you had a product that met the needs of adults with learning disabilities would people who had young children who could also use that product be willing to buy it.

They might find exactly the same thing useful but because it was described as something to use with adults would parents see that they could use it as well. The answer is of course some will see the possibilities and some will not. The more people see the possibilities of where such a kit could be used the more sales that would be made.

Do you stay separate and meet individual needs better or gather together so that it is easier to build relationships?

The reality when it comes to special needs education is that there are people who support both sides of the argument of whether it is better to educate children in specialist schools far from home or integrated into schools in their local community. They both have valid reasons for their side of the argument for using their preferred style of education. I am just pleased I do not have to make that kind of decision.

Gathering learners into groups with some shared characteristic is common in schools. In my first year at secondary school not only did girls go to one school and boys go to the school next door we were also separated by where we lived. This meant that all the girls who lived in the city went into one of two classes and all of those who lived in the surrounding villages went into the third. Consequently, we stayed together with people who we had some things in common with such as travelling on the same bus to school or that we knew from our previous school. Later different criteria were used for gathering us into groups. such as our level of ability in some subjects or our choice of subjects. There were times when we could be together with friends and times when we were apart.

It is much easier to teach people at the same level or in the same situation. For example, the girls who had been to the village schools had not learnt any French at all before starting secondary school whereas those from the city schools had. Yet we had times when we could mix and mingle.

As I was pondering all this I realised that what can help someone with one issue can hurt someone with another. The classic example is the use of lumpy paving slabs. The problem is that what helps one group can make it hard for another.

Someone with a serious visual impairment finds it really useful to have lumpy paving slabs in certain places. It is not unknown for someone to fall off a station platform and to be killed by an oncoming train because they did not recognise that they were so close to the edge.  Many, but not all, station platforms in the UK have lumpy paving slabs near the edge so that those who cannot see the edge can feel the difference and recognise that danger is inches away. If you were expecting them and they were not there then how would you realise how close you were to the edge?

The problem with the lumpy paving slabs is that they make it harder for people who need to use wheelchairs. What can be a life-saving adaptation for some can hinder others. There has to be a certain level of acceptance of each other’s needs to make provision for those who need adaptions to keep them safe while out in the community.

How do we deal with this issue within Everyone CAN Crafts?

It really raised its head when I was trying to work out how to handle the idea of having activity kits for people with learning disabilities and people who wanted to do do more knitting. That was when the idea of separating people into fellowships or broad categories of interest became attractive.

There was another problem that arose when dealing with people who are experiencing pain when knitting. There are two different solutions depending on what is causing the pain. For some, the answer is rest until you have healed then take it slowly and for others, the answer is to keep going because you stop you risk making the situation worse. They have some things in common like the choice of yarn and needles can help or hinder them but the basic medical advice is completely opposite. That was when the idea of having bands within the fellowship became attractive.

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