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Sue Williams

Sue Williams

Senior Strategy Officer, Diversity (Disability) Arts Council England

What makes a good leader?

Having a clear vision and integrity. They are prepared to take any route, however circuitous, to achieve their vision. A good leader often swims against the tide, but understands the context. To me disabled people everywhere exhibit fantastic leadership skills - managing an array of barriers, independent living, work, relationships and discrimination. People existing in a world that considers disabled peoples existence to be wrong - that's leadership!

Is leadership different for disabled people?

Having an impairment from birth you are led to believe that your participation in life and the world is secondary to non-disabled people. You are expected only aspire to other peoples expectations of you or to overachieve performing super crip feats - climbing Everest in 3 hours with only a packet of wotsits for sustenance. Internalised oppression is very damaging though - disabled people do have to work harder, do have to be tougher but that is true of most aspects of disabled peoples lives.

Do disabled people experience barriers to leadership that non disabled people don’t experience?

Whilst there is a perceived incongruity between the term leadership and the disabled label getting access to opportunities to develop the breadth of skills and experiences to become a skilled leader are still lacking. To me the biggest barrier is the validity of disabled people in wider society. Disabled people are seen as a financial drain/burden rather than economically active and making a strong contribution to improving the world around them.