Focusing on the person, not the disability’
‘The message is clear - focus on the person, we all want the same thing. When our daughter was born, we were told what she can’t do rather than let’s see what she can do’. So said, former international football player, Kevin Kilbane, speaking at the launch of 19 Stories of Social Inclusion, an Inclusion Ireland project in collaboration with the School of Social Work and Social Policy at Trinity College Dublin.
The project tells the stories of people with intellectual disabilities who, with supports, can live independently, go to work, go to college, get married and lead ordinary lives like everybody else.
A packed room at the Trinity Long Room Hub on Wednesday 8 May, heard about the research and watched videos of stories told by participants who came from all over Ireland. Stories were also displayed on posters through photos and words.
The stories presented on the day
Orla and Brendan O’Reilly got married 3 years ago and are now living in their council flat in Dublin.
Margaret Gaughan from Sligo moved into her own home at 68 years of age.
Jenny Corrigan, since her teenage years lived in group homes and now, in her mid-30s, is living independently and hoping to go to college.
Now that Maureen O’Neill is living in her own apartment in Cork she said ‘I feel like I can make my own life now that I have my own place’. A keen traveller, Maureen hopes her next trip will be to Euro Disney and Old Trafford.
Stephen Lyons is following his passion for film and photography and is completing a Level 8 course in Tallaght IT.
At 21, Nicole Norton has started her journey to become a counsellor and works with Clare Crusaders on a voluntary basis.
Work is an important aspect of many people’s lives. Joe McGrath described his work at Seed Savers in Clare on his poster.
Gerard Byrne, a receptionist at Kilkenny County Council talked about how ‘it’s good to be appreciated and valued’.
Natasha Dowling talked about her blog and how she is helping to make Kilkenny a more accessible place for people with disabilities.
Michael Connolly who works at Centra in Wicklow said ‘being part of a team makes me feel happy’.
Patrick Mason works in a pizza take-away and likes to get ‘out and about' visiting restaurants and art galleries.
Researchers, Margaret Turley and Christine Magee presented the research findings. Participants said social inclusion gave them a sense of belonging and led them to being more included in their communities. For example, a move to their own home made it possible for a participant to get involved in mainstream work or community groups. Having places and spaces that were physically accessible, welcoming and valuing diversity contributed to participants’ sense of belonging and participation and in their community.
Response from the panel
A panel of speakers responded to the research. Brian Hayes, Chair of the National Platform of Self Advocates highlighted the importance of self-advocacy groups in promoting social inclusion and how more funding is needed for such groups.
Colin Farquharson, Director with Ernst & Young said that employers look for courage, self-belief and motivated team players and he saw all these qualities in the videos. He described the Business Partners programme he is involve in with TCD on creating inclusive workplaces.
Claire Hendrick, a research participant, said when she told her boss she had a disability she was accepted. Claire said we ‘need more employers like that’.
Anne Lawlor said an important aspect of the research was that it was ‘with’ people not ‘about’ them. She said the ‘ask’ is always the same, to be included & take part. She says families should be proud of their children & be determined.
The research was called 19 Stories of Social Inclusion’ because article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is about the right to live independently. To make this a reality in Ireland researchers said we need: an understanding of ‘social inclusion’; a move from ‘care’ to ‘support’; personal supports; mainstream supports, participation in decision-making, and decision-making supports
Recommendations for policy and practice include housing, employment, supports for self-advocacy and ensuring supported decision making services.
Tomás Murphy, MC for the event, urged people to go to the Inclusion Ireland website to watch more of videos and read the posters. Another launch of the 19 Stories is taking place in Tullamore on 29 May.
Read more about this project at this link