MY VOICE…MY CHOICE

SELF-ADVOCACY CONFERENCE, DUBLIN 16 MARCH 2004 by Maura Chambers

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Hello, my name is Maura Chambers. In March I attended the conference at the Aisling Hotel, organised by NAMHI. I went with three other people from the Brothers of Charity West Clare Services.

I left home, a farm near Cooraclare, very early in the morning to catch the 8 o’clock train in Ennis to Limerick. I am a wheelchair user so I’d made arrangements with Iarnród Éireann to have a ramp ready so I could get on the train. We had to change train in Limerick. When I got onto the Dublin train I discovered that the access to the carriage was too narrow for my wheelchair to get through, so I travelled in between carriages, which was uncomfortable and cold. When I got to Dublin a man came with a ramp, and was surprised I had travelled in that way. He said he would make sure I got a better service on the way back. The trip back was much better; I was offered a smaller wheelchair that I could transfer onto and get through into the carriage. It was a much more pleasant trip.

I was staying at the Aisling Hotel and I got a nice, spacious room. After we registered we went into the main conference room and heard the opening speeches. Then came a series of presentations about Self-Advocacy. Marie Wolfe spoke about people’s rights in the context of disability services, Anne Darby from Ballymore Eustace gave us an account of the Diversity in Dialogue Project, which was very interesting, and Paul Crilly spoke about the need for better supports for Group Advocacy.

After lunch we had a choice of four workshops to go to. I went to the one about making information more accessible for everybody; others went to a workshop on legal rights given by Disability Legal Resource.

There was also a drumming workshop and another one on how to start an advocacy group. Later on in the afternoon we watched a very good video by Circles Network UK, on Person-Centred Planning as a tool for the development of independent advocacy.

Later that evening we all got together for our Conference dinner, then a band came on and we danced away till the early hours of the morning.

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