We talk to Toyah Wordsworth about the novel approach she’s adopted for her disability equality workshops…
Throughout her childhood, Toyah Wordsworth was often prone to falling over and frequent clumsiness, but was unable to explain why. An answer finally came after she turned 13 and was diagnosed with Friedrich’s ataxia – a genetic condition that affects an individual’s co-ordination, balance and speech.
It wasn’t long before Wordsworth began to realise how far-reaching the impact of her condition would be. After attending college and university, where she gained a post graduate certificate in disability studies, she set about devoting her life to fighting for disability rights and demonstrating how, through adopting the right approach, anybody can achieve whatever goals in life they set for themselves.
Getting the message across
After a period spent working for a number of charities she made the decision in 2006 to become self-employed and set up Equal Equality – a consultancy providing disability equality training and workshops to schools, businesses and other organisations in Yorkshire.
What makes Wordsworth’s workshops unique is their use of an innovative teaching aid – a boardgame she devised herself called Removing Barriers. As Wordsworth recalls, “In 2005 I was working for a charity in Rotherham, delivering disability equality training to adults. I thought it would be great in schools, but thinking about it, I realised that if just sat and talked to people in a school setting, they’d just fall asleep on me. I needed a better way of getting the training’s message across.”
Having developed a prototype, it soon emerged that the appeal of game could be wider than she originally thought – “People told me how good it was, so I started using it more and more and wanted to take it further.”
Having obtained funding to produce a more refined version of the game, she proceeded to enlist the help of illustrator and cartoonist Dave Lupton, who produced artwork for the more durable set that she continues to use to this day.
In terms of how it plays, Removing Barriers employs similar mechanics to Monopoly – a deliberate choice, Wordsworth explains, since “I don’t need to do as much explaining on how to play, and it’s good when it becomes competitive. Most people have played Monopoly and can get the general idea.”
Feedback regarding Wordsworth’s use of the game has been largely favourable and helped generate positive word of mouth for her business, particularly between schools. “A lot of people have liked playing the game and asked about buying one,” Wordsworth notes, “and I’ve had to explain that there’s only one copy. People have mentioned crowdfunding, which is something I hope to look at soon.
“What I’d eventually like to do is produce a film or DVD to go with the game, so that when people play it they can still have ‘me’ there, asking them questions, helping and working alongside them.”
Removing Barriers – How to play
The object of the game is to remove as many barriers for disabled people as possible by buying adaptations and services. The components consist of a board, two dice, five counters, four piles of Community Resource cards (with 12 cards in each), 12 Ownership cards, and play money. The game is designed to be played by 12 players.
The players are split equally into four teams. Each group is represented on the board by a centre for people with a particular condition – physical disabilities, visual impairments, hearing impairments,
learning difficulties and mental health conditions. Each centre is given £1250, with the remaining money and other equipment going to the Bank.
For more details about the game and Toya Wordsworth’s services, contact 079 00 248 745 or visit www.equalequality.co.uk
UPDATE – Toyah Wordsworth has since set up a Crowdfunder page with the aim of producing more copies of the game for sale both within the health and social care sectors and to members of the public