There is an on-going need for disability mediation in the civil, commercial, workplace and family context, as there remains a significant number of disabled people that are excluded. Mediation of disability disputes is an increasingly common way of achieving swift consensus while avoiding lengthy and costly litigation. A trained, impartial mediator works with two parties to resolve any issues, which have arisen between them. Mediation of disability disputes can have immediate practical impacts which benefit both parties, and which inform a wider community.
Confidentiality and involvement
Dialogue is confidential, everyone is given equal time to present their point of view, and the mediator’s role is to facilitate open, honest discussion to effect an outcome satisfactory to both parties.
Mediation often mends broken relationships, whether in the workplace or between individuals and institutions.
Why disability mediation works
Effectively handled, disability mediation empowers both the party with the disability and the non-disabled person. The knowledge and understanding of disability held by the disability mediator facilitates everyone in achieving an informed, practical resolution. This is particularly the case when the mediator has personal experience of disability and its impacts. As a consequence they will understand the specific questions to ask, and how to ask them, to get the fullest understanding of any particular case.
Benefits of a mediator with experience of disability
Disability can often be an inflammatory topic of discussion and, however well meaning, the expression of uninformed opinions or use of inappropriate terminology can lead to breakdown in communication. A facilitator with experience of disability will be adept at providing both a legal and social context for these discussions, and have a thorough understanding of equality policy from all perspectives.
Just as importantly, they will have an understanding of many of the day-to-day practicalities of living with a disability. They will be able to elicit insights, which a participant with a disability may not feel comfortable expressing independently, and which a non-disabled participant may not have considered. This allows for the very best kind of mediation: open, informed and focused discussion to find common ground and agreement.
An example of disability dispute resolution
I recently mediated a dispute between an individual service user and a sports facility, which had been on-going for a decade. The parties involved reached an effective resolution within the course of a single afternoon.
The service user had felt that over that period of time the sports club had neither understood her disability needs, nor made reasonable adjustment to their facility to enable her to make full use of it. The sports facility, on the other hand, felt that the individual had not been prepared to show any flexibility in how and when she was prepared to use their facility.
There had been several attempts at mediation, conducted through mediators with no specialist knowledge of disability. Each of these attempts had failed. This attempt at dispute resolution represented a final mediation before the matter was to be escalated to litigation, at potentially significant cost to both parties.
With the help of a professional mediator with significant experience of disability mediation and personal experience of disability, it took less than three hours for the parties to achieve a resolution to a dispute, which had stretched over ten years.
The understanding each party gained as a result of mediation not only allowed for closure, but also for a new beginning. The two parties continue to have a respectful working relationship to this day.