My name is Julie, I have a physical disability, Cerebral Palsy. I am 30 years old, I recently got married and I just started a permanent job that I absolutely adore. When I began to consider the DFI’s Disable Inequality campaign, I felt myself nodding my head at all the major asks, but then felt shy because, I felt, that right now in this moment, there is not much inequality in my life. Yes, I do struggle with my mobility and access to buildings from time to time, but I have learned to manage it well. I have a good job, even though it was a long time coming. I recently got a wheelchair from the HSE after waiting a year. I shouldn’t complain now, life is good. I do feel however, that society, Irish people need to raise our expectations of what a good life for people with disabilities looks like. It should not be inspirational that I have a good job, or that I am married and want to build a house.
This is even more important for my brother, Diarmuid. He is three years younger than I am and he has Down syndrome, an intellectual disability. Up until the end of last year, the Lunacy Act 1871 dictated that Diarmuid could not make his own decisions. Thankfully that has now changed and the Assisted Decision Making Act 2015 means that it is assumed that Diarmuid has the capacity to make his own decisions, with support if he needs it. The Act provides a Decision Support Service where people can get assistance with legal decisions if they want or need it. The service is set to be in operation by the end of 2016.
This new legislation is a huge step along the way to recognising the human rights of people with intellectual disabilities. It is also a further step along the road to Ireland ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. We were one of the first countries to sign up to the convention and we will be one of the last to ratify, but, better late than never! The Assisted Decision Making Act could impact on any of us as Irish citizens, if we ever experience difficulties with our mental health our with diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. There will be provisions in place for us to get the support we need. There have been people and organisations such as Inclusion Ireland and others campaigning and working hard to change capacity legislation for decades, even longer than my lifetime. Thank you.
We have an opportunity to reframe how we view people with disabilities. We need to adopt a human rights approach where people are valued first and foremost as human beings, with rights to feel safe and valued. We need to adopt it across all sectors of society and stop looking at where we can cut costs, we have been cutting dignity and now it’s time to enable equality and dream big!