A Summit to mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities recently took place at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.
Disabled people from all over Scotland attended the event, which preceded the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPWD) on Sunday 3 December.
Among those selected to attend was Heather Melville-Hume, who is ILF Scotland’s Senior HR Manager.
Here, Heather shares her experiences of attending the first event of its kind and the sense of community and kinship she felt.
“There were so many significant moments for me during the Summit, and I found it hugely moving and truly inspirational. I was excited to meet others and share our lived experiences as disabled people and discuss how everyone can bring about a more inclusive society.
“As a stroke survivor of five years with dominant right-sided weakness, I experience challenges every day in living independently and the reliance on others to do so. I am hugely passionate about the subject both from an individual point of view, but also recognising many people in our diverse society are way more vulnerable than I.
“I would say three moments from the Summit stand out for me: firstly, having the opportunity to meet other disabled people, share our lived experience, and tap into that sense of community and kinship was inspiring.
“Secondly, to be in the Debating Chamber at the Scottish Parliament and having the absolute privilege of hearing Dr Jim Elder-Woodward and Etienne d’Aboville reminding us how many more doors we still need opened for disabled people, but even more so how important it is for disabled people to be in that room to inform and influence societal change and understanding. I recorded his message and have listened to it several times as he highlighted where we have come from and where we still need to go. It was just incredible.
“Finally, keeping it real was Tanni Grey-Thompson, who reminded me that we don’t have the same opportunities or access to travel on the train as others because we are wholly reliant on assistance booked in advance to do this. As a regular train passenger, I’d just accepted that is how it is, but actually Tanni reminded me that is not how it should be.
“The volume of support available to ensure that I and others were able to be ‘present’ on the day and fully contribute was impressive. Attending this event has reminded me about the challenges disabled people face to live their lives with choice, control, freedom and dignity as they have the right to do so, but also what we as a society must do to enable that.
“I felt hugely proud to work with and on behalf of all our fantastic colleagues here at ILF Scotland, when the work that we do to enable independent living for disabled people was celebrated several times over during the day.
“As a disabled person I felt connected to an amazing community of people where we can affect real change, but realise that there is still so much to do.
“I felt that having this first Summit to Mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities was a small step in the first of many to be taken. It’s only right that we are in that room because it’s our building and our Parliament, too. There are still too many barriers for disabled people to live, work and thrive independently.”
“Personally, my goal is to continue to live and work in Scotland independently beyond 2030 for myself and others. Professionally, my goal is to ensure that I remain a valued part of an amazing team of people here at ILF Scotland in my profession and as a disabled person, so that together we continue to champion independent living for all disabled people.”