“Disability crosses all nationalities, all races and all religions. People with disability face discrimination daily, whether it is lack of education, lack of training, employment, or basically lack of access to their own environment.”
“We need to recognise every citizen in a shared society. We need to create a greater understanding of each other to prevent an “us and them” mentality and to respect and celebrate each other’s differences. This is what will make an enriched society and one where everyone will feel included.“
Here is the Speech of Bridget Boyle – Access Officer & Disability Activist
“Mind the Brexit Gap: Celebrating Diversity & Inclusion in the Border” on the 121st Philippine Independence Day – 1st of June 2019
I am delighted to be here today and also wish the Filipino community a very Happy Independence Day and also to be welcomed and be part of this meeting of cross-community groups.
For those who may not know me, my name is Bridget Boyle, I have worked in the voluntary sector for nearly 30 years working with people with disabilities. I have a diploma in peer counselling form the Marino Institute and studied access auditing through the University of Ulster.
I am a disability activist working with and on behalf of people with disabilities, part of my work over the last number of years is to enable people with disabilities have a voice and also to be the voice of those who feel marginalised and don’t have their voices heard.
I was a first -time candidate in the recent local elections, my aim was to ensure that PWD have a voice in decision making at local level and to ensure all policies at this level were and continue to be disability proofed.
Unfortunately, I was not successful this time, but it is most important to take up the challenge and put disability and inclusion on the Local Authority agenda.
PWD face daily discrimination, whether it is lack of access to education, training, employment or basically lack of access to the built environment. Discrimination is a constant pressure in our lives. The easiest way to understand and assist PWD is to listen to their lived experiences, to see the world through their eyes.
As a wheelchair user, I understand and can empathise the challenges faced by people who are marginalised and excluded. I am a strong believer of the need for inclusion and equity of service for all citizens.
Inclusion is described as “the practice of ensuring that people feel they belong, are engaged and connected”. It is a Universal Human Right whose aim is to embrace all people irrespective of race, gender, disability or other attributes which can be perceived as different.
Inclusion is about valuing all individuals, giving equal access and opportunity to all and removing discrimination and other barriers to involvement.
In 2007 Ireland signed up to the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD) but the convention was only ratified in 2018, 11 years later. The UNCRPD sets a standard that PWD are entitled to all Human Rights that people without disabilities enjoy. The ratification of the UNCRPD marked the end of a lengthy campaign in the fight for disability rights by disability activists. “Nothing about us, without us” was the motto of those who fought tirelessly to have the convention ratified thus ensuring that it is no longer acceptable for persons with disabilities to be excluded in decision-making in matters relating to them.
Considering Brexit, we need to ensure that the Good Friday Agreement is protected, in all its parts to ensure lasting peace on the Island of Ireland. There can be no disruption to the free movement of people, goods and services throughout the country both North and South. We need to ensure that there is no customs infrastructure and no hard border.
It will be important to further protect people who feel marginalised and excluded. We need to recognise every citizen in a shared society. We need to create a greater understanding of each other to prevent an “us and them” mentality and to respect and celebrate each other’s differences. That is what will make an enriched society and one where everyone will feel included.
In the words of Rev. Jesse Jackson, “inclusion is not a matter of political correctness, it is the key to growth.”