I recently spoke at a forum hosted by DPA (Disabled Persons Assembly). My address was very warmly received, people even asked for a transcript of the speech itself.
This is something I had never thought about making available before because my process is to speak from a series of bullet points. It is not uncommon for me to not know what I am going to say right up to the point I step on stage.
But being asked for a transcript made me realise something. Apparently my words have power, apparently people relate to my message and maybe, just maybe, I bring new ideas and a new perspective on life. In a moment we will go into “first-person mode” this was a speech where I was asked to share my perspective on living with a disability, reflecting on the past, looking at now and giving my feelings for the future.
Unfortunately because I can not be 100% accurate about what I said on the day, small parts may differ from what was said. Those of you reading this that were there, cut me some slack 🙂
“I reflect on the earlier comments Gary (Gary Williams) made, Gary has been around a long time. He has been through it all, faced adversity unimaginable to me, put in the work to change it, him along with many others are responsible for the fantastic life I have today, I realise this and I appreciate it very much.
My story overall is a very positive one.
Disability has never really been a determining factor in my life I am fortunate enough that byinlarge it has never been a big issue that I’ve had to self advocate for. Am I saying that I’ve never faced adversity in my life? Of course I have! There was that one time in highschool where a girl never called me back or that video game I never got around to buying!
On a serious note though my disability is out of my control, it’s no more in my control than someone being able to control having a big nose for example, and plenty of people can go through life with a big nose just fine. When things come up I deal with them, when I really think about it what other option do I have.
It’s time for a new message, it’s time to hear something some of you in the room have waited your whole lives to hear.
I am absolutely living the life I want to live and I’m doing all the things I want to do, and I understand completely that it is because of people like you in the room that have fought the good fight, been through it all and made things so much easier for my generation and the generation coming up behind me.
It is because people like yourselves that I can live where I want, choose who I work for, negotiate pay, be with friends and loved ones and ultimately live a life that is of my design and mine alone. Ladies and Gentlemen, as unassuming as I may appear to some of you, believe me when I say I am the result of the hard work of this sector and I think that deserves a round of applause.
I am very blessed to be part of committees such as Enabling Good Lives and the Faiva Ora National Pacific Leadership Group, I’m also on various other funding & advisory panels. it is inspiring for me personally to be aware of disability representation always being thought of at a national level and to know that we are over the horizon of inclusion; disabled people are involved in the development of almost everything that affects us and that is exciting to me. Thank you.
The projects I am involved with are always ones that I believe are very significant to the future of the disabled community but I can’t be everywhere and I’m certainly not involved in everything that is significant so once again I want to acknowledge all of you and all the work you do to make this country more livable and more accessible.
For a moment I’d like to reflect on leadership. Part of the reason I am so humbled, up here before all of you this afternoon, is that I am very aware of the caliber of the people in this room, the positions you’ve held, the countless numbers of people you have helped and influenced, the people you know. It really is a who’s who situation here today.Also it’s very apparent to me that we are all here today because we care about the future and we are preparing for, and are passionate about the next stage for equality in this country.
From time to time, I must say, I have been referred to as a leader. However, having my photo taken and slapped up on an overpriced website, with a pretentious quote underneath, completely blown out of context is not what I feel makes me a leader. I consider myself to be a leader because of choice. I am in a position where I can make decisions that make a positive impact on lots of people at once. Furthermore choice creates options and the most empowering thing we can do for our community is to explore choice, develop choice and present those choices to as many people as we can, especially our young people.
As a motivation and trigger for you all, Think for a moment about the work that you all do. Are we still convinced our part of the sector patch is worth protecting or could we perhaps focus on a more strategic approach to delivering quality services for consumers and their families, regardless of what that means for our bank accounts? Who do we actually work for at the end of the day?
I said earlier that I have a great life, but we all know there are huge gaps in society. a lot of the time it comes down to the simple things. I’d like to be able to ride the bus with my disabled peers for example.
It is beyond me how something so basic, in 2013 still hasn’t been addressed (and I’m told wont be, for the foreseeable future).
To close, I’d like to say what a pleasure it is to be at this forum today. It has been a goal of mine for a very long time to be at the DPA’s table, and I appreciate the opportunity that enabled me to be here today.
Again, if I haven’t done it enough I thank you. But also consider that my friends thank you, my family thank you and most important to me, my Daughter Evelyn thanks you because she has a father that is a positive, contributing member of society, she has a dad that can and will be able to deliver the standard of life she and I both deserve. Thank you for your time”