Today, Thursday December 3rd, marks International Day of People with Disabilities. Embracing the theme ‘Not All Disabilities are Visible’, the day challenges us to ensure that everyone we encounter is considered equally, justly and fairly. Disability, as the theme states, is both visible and invisible to the observer.
Over the last three weeks, the HSE Disabilities National Quality Improvement Team hosted a series of webinars allowing for disabled people, staff who support them, carers and families to come together to share their perspectives under distinct themes: Experience of Living During the Covid 19 Pandemic; Valuing the Contributions of Disabled People in our Society and today, marking International Day of People with Disabilities: ‘Not all Disabilities are Visible.’
According to Marie Kehoe-O’Sullivan, National Disability Specialist, Quality Improvement: “We usually host a National Sharing Day annually where people with disabilities, support staff, families and advocates come together and share their experiences and stories under an agreed theme. We were due to hold the 2020 Day on November 12th this year. Obviously with Covid that was not possible so instead we opted for a series of Webinars with first held on that date.”
The result, she says, has been a huge success: “We held a second webinar last week and of course, today to mark International Day of Disabilities, we are hosting a third which we are confident will be as well received as the previous two.”
Having targeted an audience including disabled people, their families and carers, and staff who support them, Marie notes that they have attracted total audience numbers of up to 1000: “We are delighted that so many were able to join us and witness the inspiring and enjoyable presentations: “The work, humour, intelligence, honesty and ingenuity contained in all the presentations was truly magnificent.”
Featuring a mix of live presentations and recorded videos, the presentations offered a diversity of form and format: “We have had everything from storytelling, art, poetry, dance and song - it’s been informative, uplifting and entertaining.”
Impact of Covid-19
With contributions from across the country, they heard from Declan Guildea from Dublin who survived COVID-19 after being quite ill; Jennifer Mulligan from Sligo who focussed on arts and crafts and Seamus McGrory from Donegal who turned the experience of isolation into calmness and enjoyed newly discovered sea swimming. A collaborative video showed how some individuals from Dublin expressed the impact of COVID-19 through the medium of interpretive dance. Their dance sessions were recorded by service-supported persons and their families and the music for the soundtrack was compiled by Bryan Murphy and Tunde Hodosan-Egan.
In a pre-recorded presentation, Joseph Carr from Dublin outlined how he had experienced a double impact when lockdown hit in March - he could no longer attend at day services to meet with his friends and also had to initially step back from his job in the local Supervalu. However, after some reflection with his dad he returned to his Supervalu job, delighting both Joseph and his fellow employees.
A County Clare ensemble video production brought joy, laughter, challenge, innovation and insight with everything from baking, crafts, fund raising, dancing, cycling and poetry.
Others who contributed included Darragh Melvin from Mayo, George Dineen from Kerry, Grace Nolan from Meath, Joseph Jenkins from Sligo, Kevin Dooney from Dublin and Mark Biggins from Galway - all offering engaging and valuable presentations and videos.
Marie reflects that while moving to a virtual/webinar format this year was borne out of necessity, she concludes that they will engage with all involved for next year to decide what way they can host such events: “We actually found this to be very inclusive so we will find out what works best and make those decisions next year. It’s been a challenging year for everyone and maybe now, more than ever we should all take time to reflect on ensuring that the world we inhabit and create is inclusive and equal for all.”
Today, marking International Day of People with Disabilities, Marie invites you to view the live presentation given by Meadhbh Hennessy from Askeaton, Co. Limerick last Thursday (November 26th). At 27, Meadhbh gives an overview of her life and outlines the challenges of visual impairment. Under the theme “Dispelling the one dimensional view of People with Disabilities”, Meadhbh emphasises how some facets of her life have changed dramatically but not the value of them. She does so with insight, honesty and humour.
Marie notes: “I would encourage everyone to watch Meadhbh’s presentation. It captures a personal journey and a perspective that speaks to everyone.”
All three webinars were recorded will be available for everyone to watch when they are made available in the coming weeks on the HSE YouTube Channel.
Marie has sincerely thanked everyone involved at all levels for their imagination, creativity, honesty and hard work and acknowledges the involvement of Minister of State for Disability, Dr. Cathal Morgan, Head Of Operations, Disability Services, HSE, Mary McKenna, AMIRIC team, Adam Harris, Advocate with Autism Charity ‘As I Am and Helen Guinan CEO, National Disability Authority.