This research was carried out by Shaping Our Lives and the University of Worcester
Tips for Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations
This short guide provides some headline tips for Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations (DDPOs) who provide services for Deaf and Disabled people from all communities. This guide has been created from findings from a study conducted by the University of Worcester and Shaping Our Lives that investigated the ‘missing’ voices of Disabled people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in the policy and services relating to Disabled people in the UK.
As part of the Missing Voices research study we asked DDPOs about their experience of working with people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. Most expressed their services were open to everyone from all communities, but there was limited knowledge about whether their services reached and were used by Disabled people in these communities. When we spoke to community members there was limited knowledge about the services available from DDPOs and the nature of impairments and long-term health conditions that define people as disabled people in the Equality Act 2010. People in Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities also explained the barriers and discrimination they face when trying to access services. From these conversations, we have provided some tips for becoming more inclusive for people in traveller communities.
Know about your audience
It is estimated there are 300,000 people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities living in the UK. Of these, less than 20% are regular travellers, the rest are living in housing. There are many different groups such as Irish Travellers and English Gypsies who have different identities; plus often Showmen families and Boaters are part of this community. Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people have shorter life expectancy, higher levels of illness and mental health issues than people in the UK generally. It is likely that there are more Disabled people proportionately in their communities than in the population as a whole although statistics are sparse.
It is essential to do cultural awareness training to become informed of the different cultural norms. Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities are different to each other, they have different ethnic and heritage backgrounds, different lifestyles and behaviours. For example, they are not all people who travel. Approach a local representative or a national organisation such as Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT) to find training materials and useful resources.
There are lower levels of literacy in traveller communities. This means that promoting services through leaflets and posters will not be accessible. There are also likely to be barriers to accessing the internet. To effectively communicate with people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities you will need to reach out to them. This is best done by initially making contact with a local community representative, a local authority worker in this area or through a user-led group for traveller people. For engagement, it is likely you will need to visit people in their homes and /or use more traditional communication such as the telephone. There are also travellers who do not use English as their first language such as Roma people from Europe, and translators may be needed.
Be aware that people in these communities are very stoic and believe in caring for each other rather than reaching out to services. They may be embarrassed to admit an impairment or health condition they have and sometimes they may feel ashamed. They may be unwilling to talk openly about issues relating to disability and often will not use the term ‘disabled’.
Inclusive activities and services
Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people experience direct discrimination frequently when trying to access health and social care services. This has led to them being wary and sensitive to discriminatory or prejudicial attitudes and behaviours. It is very important that their first experience of using a service or doing an activity is inclusive otherwise they are unlikely to return and their health may suffer. Ensure all service and activity staff or volunteers are culturally aware and understand that reading and writing may be difficult for some people.
Ask people what they need to access your service and take part in activities. Share this knowledge with your organisation and proactively remove barriers to the involvement of Gypsy, Roma or Traveller communities.
Some useful information
A national directory of traveller services can be found on the Friends, Families and Travellers website
They have recently launched a free Advice for Advisors portal for voluntary sector organisations supporting Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. If you would like access to the portal, please message firstname.lastname@example.org.
This guide does not consider the relevant country specific legislation, such as the Welsh Race Equality Action Plan, which relate to people in travelling communities and it is advised to seek more information on the local policies and legislation.
We have sought comments from some representatives from traveller communities for this short guide but would welcome more input. Please contact Becki Meakin on email@example.com with any comments or contributions.