Developing ICT skills and networks of support.
Friday – challenging attitudes
During Friday morning, I went to ‘the Market Place’. There were lots of stands promoting different services for people with an intellectual (learning) disability. Marsh and I walked around the stands and talked to people.
I helped out at our Inclusion International stand. I told people about the work that Inclusion International do.
Later in the morning, I went to some of the presentation sessions, which were really good. I went to a session that was just for self advocates. It was hosted by Tom Shakespeare, who works for the World Health Organisation. He talked about the World Report on Disability and about forced sterilisation.
Sterilisation is an operation that stops a person having children. Sometimes people with an intellectual (learning) disability are forced to have this type of operation. People were passionate about the issue and spoke up about it. Nearly everyone thought that forced sterilisation was a bad idea.
The next session I went to was about supporting parents who have an intellectual (learning) disability. There were speakers talking about issues that parents with an intellectual (learning) disability had faced.
Donna and Ricardo’s story
At the session, there was a couple called Donna and Ricardo Thornton, who both have an intellectual (learning) disability. They told their story to the audience. It was really inspiring to hear.
This is their story:
Donna and Ricardo met when they were both living in an institution (large care home) in the United States of America. They became good friends.
After a while, their friendship then turned into a relationship. A few years later, they decided to get engaged and get married as they wanted to be together.
They then faced a lot of discrimination from professionals about their decision. Ricardo and Donna fought the discrimination they faced and proved to everyone that they were in love and that they were happy. A couple of years later, they finally got married. Since then they have also had a child of their own.
Personally to me, their story was really inspiring to listen to as I am getting married next year.
Saturday – my presentation
During Saturday afternoon, I was on the speakers’ panel for a presentation session called Life after school – transitioning from school to work.
My presentation was about how people with an intellectual (learning) disability should get good support at work from their colleagues, and about my experiences of having a job and working for Mencap.
I was really pleased with how it had gone and I felt confident. A couple of people came up to me afterwards and said that they liked my presentation.
After my presentation session, Marsh and I went to the closing plenary session. Towards the end of the session, I went up on to the stage with a self advocate called Kevin Smith, who is from a self advocacy group called People First of West Virginia. We both talked about some of the highlights from the conference, and introduced a video that was made up of highlights from the conference.
At the end of the session, Klaus Lachwitz who is the President of Inclusion International, closed the conference and invited everyone to take part in the closing event.
The event in the evening was called Rock The Night Away! It was hosted by a professional dance group. We all got dressed up and danced until the early hours of the morning!
Sunday – coming back to the UK
During Sunday, I attended the General Assembly meeting and the second council meeting.
On Sunday evening, we left the hotel and travelled back to the airport. We were all a bit nervous because Hurricane Sandy was going to hit the East Coast of America and we weren’t sure whether our flight was going to go! But we were very lucky and our flight took off without a hitch.
Looking back, the conference was fantastic. It was great to meet so many passionate people and hear about the lives of people with learning disability all over the world.