THE ‘OUR SAY, OUR RIGHTS’ QUILT PROJECT

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Background

The idea for the ‘Our Say, Our Rights’ quilt project came up at an IDRights meeting earlier this year. IDRights is a group that is working to link together human rights activities in Ireland and to make a new human rights activity that will include many people with intellectual disabilities in Ireland. We want: . To meet and talk with people with intellectual disabilities, so that they can be more part of human rights projects and work; . To meet, talk and build relationships with other groups, agencies and organisations; . To advise and watch the growing of human rights education and training.

  • This will raise awareness of their human rights for people with intellectual disabilities, service providers and the general public;
  • To plan and host activities and events to raise awareness about human rights for people with intellectual disabilities.

We had run Rights Days in 2009 and 2010 in Dublin and Limerick and we wanted to do something different this year. So, we decided to do a quilt. The ‘Our Say, Our Rights’ quilt was about people’s rights. We wanted lots of people to make squares that could be added to the quilt. We wanted each person to make a square and to put a picture on the square about a right that was important to them. We also wanted each person to put their name on the square that they made. We wanted people to talk about their rights when they were making their squares.

We were aiming to make a big quilt that would have lots of people’s rights on it. This would be shown at our Rights Day in 2011. This would get people thinking about their rights and talking to each other about their rights. It would also get people to listen to each other’s ideas about their rights.

Making the Quilt

We sent out invitations to lots of people all over Ireland asking them to send us their squares. We got replies from Dublin, Sligo, Waterford, Limerick, Tipperary, Clare and even from Canada! 147 people sent in squares to make the quilt. We did not expect to get such a good response. When people were making their squares, Lorraine was working on the centrepiece. This was 1 metre wide and 1 metre high and was fabric painted and the design and the words ‘Our Say, Our Rights’ were embroidered on the material.

When the squares first arrived we wrote down all the names of the people who made them. Fintan took digital photographs of each of the squares and saved them on the computer. Most people wrote a piece about their square and about what it meant to them. Originally we had planned to stitch all of the squares together to make a quilt but there were a lot of squares…too many to put together in one quilt! So, we mounted them on large boards. Instead of making a real quilt, we made a collage of the photographs of the squares using a computer programme. This can be seen in the picture on this page.

The Rights Day 2011

The Rights Day took place on 14th September 2011 in the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity College Dublin. There were about 120 people present. Lorraine gave the opening and closing addresses and this was her first time to do anything like this. She was great!

We made a presentation for the Rights Day which brought together squares that had similar meanings or themes. Every square was shown on the screen and everyone there had the opportunity to speak about their square.

We found 7 themes:

  • Home and personal space;
  • Choice and normal living patterns;
  • Being heard;
  • Work and money;
  • Family, friends and relationships;
  • Respect and equality;
  • Health and support.

The theme that came out strongest was ‘choice and normal living patterns’, followed by ‘family, friends and relationships’, and ‘being heard’. This tells us that it is important for people to be able to make choices in their lives. It also tells us that people want to have the same choices and to be able to do the same types of things as other people in Irish society.

The project was a lot of hard work, and took 6 months to complete, but it was worth it. We are so happy that we have achieved this and congratulate everybody who took part. We still hope to bring together all of the squares in a real quilt, but this will take a bit longer.

Lorraine’s Reflection:
What the ‘Our Say, Our Rights’ Quilt project meant to me.

When I started the ‘Our Say, Our Rights’ quilt at first, the words got to me. It made me feel like no one respected me and they were not listening to me about my rights at all. Now I hope people will sit up and listen to people with intellectual disabilities and hear what we want about our rights and the squares show what the rights mean to people with intellectual disabilities. The ‘Our Say, Our Rights’ quilt was shown for the first time at the Rights Day and some of the people did talk about the squares and what it meant to them when they were making the squares.

I think doing a project like the ‘Our Say, Our Rights’ quilt is a way to get people to listen to people with intellectual disabilities. Then if we keep doing projects like the quilt we will be able see how far we get with rights for people with intellectual disabilities.

I think we should think how we can work the rights days every year to make them better each time and see can we do them a different way and get the people all over the country to work together. I feel we will finally get our rights if we keep fighting for our rights if we can. I think we can find a way to do things even better for people with intellectual disabilities because we need to be respected at all times because we are no different than anyone else.

It made me think where my rights are at the moment and the thing is no one respects me. And I can’t fight for my rights. And I am not getting anywhere with them because I think I have no rights. But we all have rights and no one can take our rights away from us anymore. It also made me think I should take control of my rights again and make people listen to me when I need them to take notice of me and my rights.

Conclusion

It was hard work and we were quite stressed but it all came together on the day. Every.body we spoke to was happy and felt that the Right Day went well. It was really worth.while and Lorraine worked very hard throughout the project and deserves great credit. The day could not have happened without the work of the IDRights Steering Committee – Poilin Brennan, Sharon Cruise, Angelina Veiga, Paul Alford, Clare Naughton, Aoife Biggs, Freida Kavanagh, Jim Candavel Raman and Edurne Garcia Iriarte. We would like to invite people to become involved in IDRights, if they wish to, because it would be great for everyone who has an intellectual disability to work together for their rights. If you would like to get involved you can contact: Dr. Fintan Sheerin, Chairperson IDRights, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2.

My name is Lorraine Keating and I am 46 years old and I live in Dublin. I also work in Stewarts Hospital and I am a waitress in a restaurant called the Old Beehive. I am also doing courses in Crumlin College at night and the two courses are English and Maths. What I do in my spare time is I go to the gym twice a week. I go to athletics once a week and I go to a walking club once a week and I also go swimming twice a week as well.
Fintan Sheerin is a lecturer in intellectual disability nursing at the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity College Dublin. He is also Chairperson of IDRights, the participatory action movement which led the development of the ‘Our Say, Our Rights’ Quilt.