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Campaigners have called for a “tidal wave of desire for change” in the disability movement to encourage more young disabled people to become the leaders of the future.

The call comes in the report Pushing for Change, part of a project by the Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) to help build a new generation of disabled leaders.

The report says disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) should make a “concerted effort” to promote themselves to young disabled people and find ways to work with them and develop their leadership potential.

DPOs should also develop programmes that tell young disabled people about the social model of disability and the history of the movement.

The report says DPOs have “a key role to play in building confidence, self-esteem and a sense of history in young disabled people’s lives”.

While young disabled people are interested in disability politics and keen to challenge inequality, they need disabled adult role models and mentors, the report says.

And it says the government and public bodies should do more to ensure that mainstream leadership initiatives include young disabled people.

Tara Flood, chief executive of ALLFIE, said: “Our evidence clearly shows that young disabled people want to be leaders but are often excluded from leadership opportunities.

“We cannot allow another generation of disabled people to be denied their leadership potential.”

Baroness [Jane] Campbell, who hosted the report’s launch at the House of Lords this week, said: “Young disabled people make perfect leaders because they learn through experience how to overcome barriers.

“If they can apply this experience to life in general, they will often unlock some of the barriers all people face in life.”

A survey of DPOs for the report found less than a third of the 49 respondents were working directly with young disabled people and had dedicated staff or roles for them within the organisation.

And only six per cent said there were young disabled people included in their work.

The report concludes that many young disabled people are missing out on leadership opportunities that their non-disabled peers can access, and so their “important contributions” to ensuring full equality and human rights for disabled people “are not being realised”.

19 January 2010