Developing ICT skills and networks of support.
I represent Europe on the Council of Inclusion International. Inclusion International is a worldwide organisation that advocates for the human rights of people who have an intellectual disability.
On the council, there are self advocates and supporters. A self advocate is a person with an intellectual (learning) disability who speaks up for themselves and for others.
We were at the conference from Tuesday 23 October to Sunday 28 October.
Tuesday – arriving in Washington!
On Tuesday morning, my colleague Marsh and I met in Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport, ready to fly to Washington DC! Our plane took off on time and we arrived in the afternoon.
Later in the afternoon, Marsh and I went for a walk around the city. We walked around the outside of the White House and the National Mall area. We then walked towards the Washington Memorial, the reflecting pool and the Lincoln Memorial.
On our way back to the hotel, we saw three helicopters fly overhead in the sky and one of them landed on the White House lawn. We asked a policeman if Barack Obama was in the helicopter and he said yes. It was really exciting as we were about 500 yards away!
Wednesday – the first council meeting
On Wednesday, Marsh and I attended the Inclusion International Council meeting. We talked about the membership report and the officers’ reports. We talked about the Self Advocacy Committee Report. This report talked about the work that our council members with an intellectual disability have been doing over the last year to promote self advocacy.
We also talked about the 2014 Inclusion International World Congress Conference that will take place in Kenya. A lady from Inclusion Africa told us about some of the things that will happen there. The other item we talked about was nominations for new council members.
Thursday – the main conference
On Thursday morning, Marsh and I registered for the main conference. We attended the Self Advocates pre-Conference Day meeting. The meeting was hosted by Inclusion International and The Arc’s National Council of Self Advocates.
The ARC is the largest organisation advocating for and serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families in the United States of America.
The meeting was co-presented by David Corner, who is a self advocate from New Zealand. He is on the council of Inclusion International and represents the Pacific Region. Our Self Advocacy Committee Group presented a presentation on the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) and what it is about.
At the pre-conference day, there were presentations from self advocates from all over the world. I met some self advocates from the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, Africa and Nepal. I also met a very inspiring self advocate called Marisa who lives in Virginia, USA. She works for The ARC. Marisa has been helping to shut down institutions in her area that are still open. Four of out of five of the institutions are now shut, which is very good news! During the meeting, I also heard talks from other really inspiring self advocates.
Later in the afternoon, we went to the opening session of the conference. At the start of the session, three American soldiers marched in with the American flag and we all stood while the national anthem of the USA was played. One of the speakers was the Mayor of Washington DC, Vincent Gray, who welcomed us all to the city.
The Right to Live and Be Included In The Community
During the session, the report on Article 19 was launched. This is about The Right to Live and Be Included In The Community. I thought this was the most important part of the conference. Read our easy read factsheet on the report.
Some of the findings from the report are:
- People with an intellectual disability don’t have the chance to decide where they live and who they live with.
- Institutions deprive people of their rights.
- Families receive little or no support to help care for a person with an intellectual (learning) disability.
- Even when people with an intellectual (learning) disability live in the community, they are often isolated.
At our council meeting in Nepal last year, we did interviews with other self advocates and we filmed them on a video camera. These were then used as part of the research for the report.
In my experience, I think these findings are true. In England, we still need to improve things for people with a learning disability. Mencap agrees with me and this is what they are going to do:
Mencap are going to publish a report on housing in England. Mencap understands that we have come a long way in supporting people to live independently, but we still have a long way to go. The report is expected to show that still too many people with a learning disability are not getting a chance to live independently.
I am looking forward to seeing the report to see what it says and whether things I heard about at the conference are the same.
Letting our hair down at a red carpet event!
After the opening session on Thursday evening, we had a fun social event called Red Carpet and Film Festival.
We all walked down a red carpet while our photos were being taken. We were given either a coloured feather boa, sunglasses or a glittery tie to wear while we were walking down the carpet.
At the end of the carpet, there was a man acting like a reporter giving us the star treatment. When it got to my turn, I gave him a surprise and I sang a little bit of Somewhere Over The Rainbow!
During the film festival, we watched some fantastic short films featuring people with an intellectual (learning) disability. They really helped to showcase the talents of people with an intellectual (learning) disability.
I stayed up late and went for a few drinks with some of the other people from the conference. It was nice to get to know them. We let our hair down after a busy day!