Claire Mitchell, Michael Sullivan, Kylie Scott, Matt O’Neil, Nick McMahon, Andrew Domahidy and Ebony Beveridge have plenty of interests in common. They meet every month to talk about education and health, friendships, work, ageing, sport and other important issues.
As members of the Down Syndrome Advisory Network (DSAN), the self-advocacy group also provides valuable input and feedback to Down Syndrome Australia.
'Having Down syndrome, we are no different from anybody else: all we want is to be treated with dignity and respect,' says Michael Sullivan, pictured with Nicole Lee at a Down Syndrome Australia meeting in November 2018.
DSAN was established in late 2017 and marks its first anniversary this month. The network helps Down Syndrome Australia develop its education resources. DSAN members also provide Down Syndrome Australia with feedback on policy and advocacy. In doing so, DSAN, helps ensure Down Syndrome Australia's work properly reflects the interests of the people and communities it represents. 'DSAN gives us a place at the table,' Michael says.
At a recent advocacy forum organised by the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, Michael spoke about how a person with an intellectual disability can learn to be a self-advocate.
'You have to learn how to speak up for yourself and on behalf of others. You don’t just automatically know how to do that.
‘My advice for finding your voice, is to start with peer groups. Be a part of a group of people who are also finding their voice. This is where you can learn what you are passionate about and how to use your voice. I say use your voice, because no one can give people with intellectual disability a voice. You have a voice. Deep down we all have something to say. It is about our voices and making sure people listen when we use our voice.’
DSAN member Claire Mitchell is straightforward in her assessment of the things that matter. 'What's life all about? It's pretty simple,’ she says.
'Life is about loving family and friends, keeping healthy, having a social life, and having a job.'
December 3 is International Day of People With Disability. This year's theme is empowering people with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.
On International Day of People With Disability, Down Syndrome Australia acknowledges the right of all people with disability to inclusion and equality, and sends its thanks to DSAN members Claire, Michael, Kylie, Matt, Nick, Andrew and Ebony. Thank you for sharing your stories and those of other people with Down syndrome. And thank you for encouraging people to listen.
Read more stories on the International Day of People With Disability website.