Laura Castro and Miquel Madrigal, Dincat (Catalunya Intellectual Disability Federation)

“Work needs to be done so that children experience diversity in their own lives and accept differences naturally”

Laura Castro. Communication Manager
Miquel Madrigal. Head of Area for the Rights of Adults with Intellectual Disability of Dincat

The management team of Catalonia’s leading federation for intellectual disability – with over 300 non-profit organisations defending the rights of and providing services for the collective – places the focus on knowledge and training in order to break with stereotypes. “People with intellectual disability go to work, have a family, have a partner, live independently, do sport, go shopping… They’re not passive people, they’re active”. Despite this group’s heterogeneity, “change of approach” that it defends would benefit everyone.

Q.- What importance do you attach to inclusive design and what actions are you taking in this respect?

Miquel.- We’re talking about people with a very wide range of capability levels. The most vital need is support, both physical and personal: showing understanding, explaining the surrounding environment, accompanying travel… Communication is essential and we’re searching for systems to facilitate it: from easy reading or alternative communication systems to exploring new technologies, but always with these different levels in mind. It’s important to stress the training and knowledge of people who interact with the collective, so they know what type of communication and contact are necessary.

Laura.- Clear messages are needed that are understandable, direct and simple. And the breaking down of stereotypes: attitudes tend to be paternalistic or welfarist, so it is important to show that people with disability are active people.

Q.- Have advertising campaigns created stereotypes of people with disability?

Miquel.- A main obstacle to relations between people is ignorance: no knowledge means fear, and fear generates rejection. The fewer the stereotypes and stigma that exist, the better. If we make all this visible, we’ll break down the barriers to relating with each other.

Laura.- The term “disability” is pejorative: less ability, non-ability. Advertising always plays on the idea that people with disability are there to receive help, be accompanied, be passive… and we’re working in the opposite direction: demanding support for a normalised life.

Q.- Are the collective’s needs as consumers of leisure, culture, etc., satisfied?

Miquel.- As a collective we are difficult to integrate because demands are virtually individual and we’re at the end of the queue. The main problem is heterogeneity, but when a collective demands improvements, these benefit the whole of society. We have to persuade the whole of society to demand maximum accessibility and inclusive communication, because ultimately it benefits everyone without needing excessive investment.

Q.- Is legislation a definitive component in achieving the new diversity model?

Miquel.- The last Catalan law on accessibility introduced many improvements, but with no budget, so it was dead before it was passed. However, it is important and needs to be as advanced as possible.

Laura.- The most natural way of accepting diversity is from an early age. If diversity is introduced into the school curriculum and in your class there’s someone with a physical or intellectual disability, or with a behavioural disorder, acceptance will come much more naturally to you. Work needs to be done with children at schools, not of acceptance of diversity, but of experiencing it in their own lives and accepting difference naturally.

Q.- How do you view the role of professionals: designers, architects, publicists, etc.?

Laura.- The training of professionals is basic in all areas and must be based on inclusion and diversity forming part of life from minute zero. We may debate whether making a design accessible is more or less attractive, but aesthetics and accessibility are not mutually exclusive.

Miquel.- Training is extremely important. Beyond legislation and financial support, lies the future. The question of spending is relative: a poster may be more or less attractive, but the outlay is the same and things have to be done thinking about everyone. If a sign can be understood by someone with an intellectual disability, it can be understood by everyone.

Q.- What’s lacking in order to advance towards the diversity model?

Miquel.- It’s necessary to invest in positive discrimination; everyone would prefer it not to exist, but a process is needed that pushes towards a time where it will come as naturally as possible. The authorities are considerably restricted by the regulations, so we are demanding greater flexibility.

Laura.- Often we think personalised support works out as more expensive for the authorities whereas I believe the opposite is true: if fair and adequate, it is much more economical and has a cost-saving effect. The model must focus on the person, the family and the environment; long term, it is much more economical and generates a change of approach.

Image: Work of the serie by José Delgado Periñán.

If you found this interview interesting we would like you to share it with your social networking.