The Four R’s

Reading, Writing and Rithmetic. No. It was a bad joke then and its a bad joke now.

Here’s four R’s i created for disabled people using advocacy as a means to achieving their empowerment.


I can’t remember now how i traditionally use them but say it goes like this.

We need to know what our rights are. We need to understand that in making a stand for our rights we are risking something. I understand disability as discrimination based on impairment. It is the discriminators who are in a position of power and influence. Not us. It is them who stand to lose if we stand for our rights. it is them who will punish or avoid sharing or giving our rights, it is them who we are at risk from. However for them to understand us as equals is a risk that we should choose to take. In the struggle of risks over rights we engage in a process where the outcome will be respect. The discriminators need to learn that we are not just there for their benefit, their wage, their income, their status, their patronage and allowances. They need to understand and respect us as equals. They need to include us equally. That is our right. It is their responsibility and it is them that we need to get the respect from before we can respect ourselves.

But we also need to be responsible. We need to engage. We need to learn to set the rules for our engagement. We need to speak up and say what our ground rules are. What it means for them to include us. At the end of the process we can take more and more responsibility for ourselves. We can say here it is we are included, here it is this is our contribution.

Where responsibility does not work and where Blair and the Blairites got it wrong and continue to get it wrong is just because we have rights does not mean we have responsibilities too, a responsibility to engage, a responsibility to stand for those rights. Such ideas are basically ignorant of the process of empowerment. Empowerment does not exist because a right exists on the statue book. Empowerment happens over time, as a result of engagement in the process. The risks we take are a part of that engagement, the risk that the other side does not understand, does not want to support, does not want our inclusion is ever present. This is why the attack called welfare reform will not work, why it will drive many of us into poverty, into exclusion, toward harder days. Just because they are saying we can work now does not mean we will find work. It is also why the transformation of social care will be slow and painful. the discriminator does not want us to take the risks we need to take even though the government tell them time after time after time that they cannot and should not be risk averse. They are scared of taking the risk. They will lose the power, they will get into trouble if it goes wrong. They are scared to empower. And so it is that we continue to be disrespected, denied rights, denied the right to choose the risks we want to take, why we are not given responsibility even for ourselves. The process of discrimination and disempowerment needs to be understood and taken on board first before changes are made – though i take that back, we can’t wait for such understanding from the discriminators. We need change and we need to choose our on levels for involvement and participation and inclusion. We need to accept for ourselves the level of exclusion that is acceptable to us.

Yesterday, i spoke to an advocate who challenged me on this. He felt that empowerment was about giving people responsibility and just letting them get on with it. I wanted to prove to him that this is the route to our failure, this is how we are set up to fail. Advocates cannot do this. This is about us abdicating responsibility for the risks that our partners are taking. Advocates cannot just say do it. Advocates need to say we will support you to do it. And then we will support you to do it again. A management consultant once explained delegation to me. He said you give a job to someone else and you help them to do it three times. If they do not get it the third time they will never get it. I thought there was a certain wisdom in that but i do not think Advocates can uphold that mantra and if it means we support someone to do something four time or five times so be it. Its about the process of empowerment. We have to wait until we understand where our partner can say, i can do this now. i do not need you, i am not dependent upon you to do it.

That’s my view anyway and it is a reintroduction to the four r’s for those readers who have come across the concept before. But what if anything does the four r’s mean to you.


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