Open Eye: New study pack puts people first

If working as 'equal people' is a challenge at the best of times, add into the mix three languages and some major cultural differences.

That was the challenge facing a joint team from the Open University and Mencap when they visited Iceland to run a training course in using the OU study pack Learning Disability: Working as Equal People.

However, within the group comprising people with learning disabilities and non-disabled people, there was agreement about many of the issues facing them.

How to work together effectively, and how to be heard, were preoccupations on both sides of the North Sea.

Extending the 'working as equal people' principle right through to delivering the course, highlighted attitudinal differences.

"It is probably true in a lot of Western Europe that there is a more didactic view of teaching, while Equal People is intended to be participatory, not prescriptive," explained course team leader Jan Walmsley.

"What we observed was that the participants from the Icelandic self-advocacy group were the most able to adapt to the open learning concept.

"Their enthusiasm for the opportunity to demonstrate that they can do something that is new to them, and their excitement about being in a leadership role in the use of the course, were what made the visit rewarding for me."

Denmark is the other partner in this European-funded project to promote Equal People for vocational training across the three countries.

The course was put together by a team which, for the first time in the OU's history, included people with learning disabilities from the self- advocacy group People First, working alongside academics and Mencap.

On the other side of the world, the State of Victoria has recently awarded a grant to support its adaptation for use in Australia.

Within the next few weeks, an interactive web page for all users of Equal People to exchange views and ask questions will be accessible through the OU's School of Health and Social Welfare site: