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There's a group of people who meet every month to talk about education and health, friendships, work, ageing, sport and dancing.
Claire Mitchell, Michael Sullivan, Kylie Scott, Matt O’Neil, Nick McMahon, Andrew Domahidy and Ebony Beveridge have plenty of everyday issues and interests in common. They're also members of the Down Syndrome Advisory Network (DSAN), a self-advocacy group established in late 2017 to provide 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, who chaired the NSW Council for Intellectual Disability from 2015–2017.
DSAN’s involvement in developing Down Syndrome Australia resources, and the feedback DSAN provides on policy and advocacy, 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.
Down Syndrome Australia acknowledges the rights of all people with disability to equality and inclusion, in all areas of life.
On International Day of People With Disability, and on the first anniversary of DSAN, Down Syndrome Australia says thank you to Claire, Michael, Kylie, Matt, Nick, Andrew and Ebony. Thank you for sharing your stories and those of other people with Down syndrome, and for encouraging people to listen. More stories here.