Carrickfergus & District Senior Gateway Club in Northern Ireland hosted the first ever Learning Disability Pride Day on 27 May.

The day brought the whole province together to celebrate people with a learning disability and their place in society. 

After attending Disability pride in Belfast in 2014 I felt while this was a great day, its main focus was on people with physical disabilities. Given we have 33,000 people with a learning disability in Northern Ireland I thought it would be good to have a Learning Disability Pride day.

I applied for funding through the Big Lottery Northern Ireland and was granted it in October 2016. The proposed event was also supported financially by Mencap locally and nationally, as well as by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

Planning the event

I met with Mencap in Northern Ireland and explained my vision for the event. They were very keen to get involved. We set up a steering group with people from different learning disability organisations. Then all the hard work began!

We met over the following months sharing ideas and plans what we wanted for the day. Each person on the group fed back the ideas to their organisations and worked on an agreed plan of action. We worked closely with the local council who again were very supportive. Right from the start there was excitement about the event, and everyone wanted to get involved.

Learning Disability Pride is underway!

Around 5,000 people attended the event, and the atmosphere was immense. One moment that sticks in my mind was when I went on stage to be interviewed and saw the number of people there. All those who took part, with and without a learning disability, flew the flag learning disability.

We had so many positive comments from lots of people who said the day was an outstanding success!

“It was a wonderful day Thomas, thank you from our children, it was their day. It was so emotional to see such support from the people of Carrickfergus.”

Janet Devine, event attendee

This is the first ever Learning Disability but we promise it won’t be the last! We have had so many people enquire about next year already.