At the beginning of October, I went to a conference called Hear Our Voices in Madrid, Spain. My Inclusion International self-advocate colleagues Sara Pickard, Quincy Mwiya, and Mia Farah also attended was Mark Mapemba from Inclusion Africa. The conference was organized by the European Platform of Self-Advocates, Inclusion Europe and Plena Inclusion (which used to be known as FEAPS). Over 350 people came to the conference from all over Europe and other parts of the world as well.
Over the three days of the conference, there were lots of presentations and workshops to go to that focused on different subjects like legal capacity, sexuality and relationships, supported decision making, managing money and internet safety. Sara gave a very inspiring speech at the opening plenary session, talking about the right to decide and getting the right support to make decisions in your life. Mark ran two workshops about supported decision-making and each time, the room was almost bursting with people who were keen to join in.
Almost all of the presentations and workshops were run by self-advocates and we heard lots of really interesting examples of good things that are happening around the region. We also heard some important messages about what needs to improve.
During spare moments at the conference, we were able to do video interviews with people asking them important questions about self-advocacy, support and what issues they are focusing on back in their communities. This was another way we were able to hear about what is happening in this region.
Our friends at The Arc in the USA were also having a self-advocacy conference at the same time. We were able to do a live video linkup during their one-day Self-Advocacy Symposium that they were having in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was really exciting to use technology to do this. We were about to tell them what about Inclusion International’s priorities and hear some of the issues that are important to them as well.
It was really great to be able to go to this conference to meet new people and see old friends again. With so many inspiring self-advocates in one place, it was an amazing opportunity to be able to share our messages of inclusion.