Joanne McDonald – Self advocate (North Ireland)

My Name is Joanne McDonald and I live in rural North Ireland. I was born with a learning disability, but it has not stopped me from having a very good life. I still live at home with my family and my parents have always supported me to speak for myself and I have became more independent through the support I have been given.

Growing up with an intellectual disability

When I was very young I went to a mainstream playgroup with support from my mum. Following this I moved on to a school for children with special needs and I really enjoyed my time there where I made many friends and gained a good education, growing as a person as well.

How I became involved with Mencap

I then went on to study business administration through a government training scheme and from this I accessed the Prince’s Trust, where I first became involved in Mencap through an administration placement.

Within this placement I also became involved in a self-advocacy group which inspired my passion about Mencap and helping people with a learning disability.

My job

With the right support from my family, and also the employment service in Mencap I have been able to do a job that I love. In my job I work part time, delivering Learning Disability Awareness Training to a wide range of employers. I am still an active member of my local self-advocacy group, where I continue to work towards equality for people with a learning disability.

Outside of work

I lead a very independent lifestyle, often using public transport to get where I want to go. I enjoy doing the same things as most people my age such as going out, shopping and going to the cinema or theatre.


Through my involvement in Mencap I feel very lucky to have the opportunities that I have and I hope that other people with a learning disability can have the same choices as me in future.