We approach, not only the end of the year, but the end of yet another decade. I always like to take time to reflect on where I have been in the year with My Way Access and what the future might hold for the coming year ahead.
In 2019, I thought I would start the year quietly and built up my work on My Way Access, but it transpired that wasn’t to be. Some of you may remember I did some work on advising the House of Commons in the UK on their Disability Hate Crime laws on the back of Katie Price’s campaign after her son Harvey was cyber bullied.
I ended up talking live on the BBC News Channel discussing cyberbullying and what I feel should be the course of action. I didn’t have much time to prepare for it and didn’t know it was going out live until 20 minutes before, but it was a, massive learning curve and I learnt a lot about myself in the process.
The BBC contacted me back shortly afterwards to thank me and to seek my permission to add me to a list of disability experts in the UK that they can call if needed. Without thinking, I said sure.
This lead to the BBC contacting the following website, asking me to take part in Spend It Like Stormont, a discussion panel debating on how the Northern Ireland budget should be spent. It was a lot of fun and it opened my eyes to a lot of differing views of what is important to different people.
Throughout the year I did various radio interviews with the BBC over many topic matters and was even invited onto a radio show in Wales to discuss disability issues.
I do love to talk, as many of you know and 2019 brought a year of me giving lots of talks across the country
In Donegal, I was a speaker at Women’s Inspire Network event at Harvey’s Point Hotel. I was discussing my disability and how it led me to starting My Way Access, but now social media was a big part in building that network.
In Dublin, I spoke at UCD on Rare Diseases Day, about living in Ireland with a rare disease and my fight to get Vimizim. I stressed the importance that drug approval needs to be sped up, as years of waiting and campaigning brings untold stress to the person and added health issues.
I was also the Keynote Speaker at the Disability Action / Department of Communities event for International Day of Persons with Disabilities in Belfast. Again, I spoke about living in Northern Ireland as a disabled person, but also emphasised what the Governments need to go to close the gap to bring us out of poverty.
I organised my first disability event in Omagh, where I got speakers from Omagh Chamber of Commerce, Mencap, Leonard Cheshire in Northern Ireland and Transport For All to speak about the different aspects of their lives affected by disability. I was honored that the Keynote Speaker was Dr Michael Wardlow from the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.
Afterwards we got representatives from all levels of office in Northern Ireland to take a tour of people from the view of disabled people. We had them in wheelchairs, scooters, blind impairments glasses and walking sticks. I hope that they learnt on this day, will inform their decisions on disability matters in the future
Due to my working relationship I developed with the Equality Commission, I was then asked to take part in a working group with The Human Rights Commission for Northern Ireland and The United Nations to help develop a system to monitor the The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Northern Ireland. This could lead to more formal work in 2020.
I was also involved in similar work at Stormont during the year too, where I stressed the need for more interaction between disabled groups and Government to inform future policies and highlight issue. One issue I raised on the day was how children with autism are treated in schools and an investigation needs to start.
This year, like 2018, came with personal lost. My dear friend Lyra McKee was murdered in Derry in April. A huge hole in my life, that will never be filled. I do carry her memory with me everyday and help it inform my actions and decisions. I always ask myself, What would Lyra do?
With 2020 just hours away, I’m determined to look forward and build upon my work. I have a big event I’m involved with in March, which I will talk about at a later date. I am very excited about it. Plus lots of other little project throughout the year.
So Happy New Year to you all and from the bottom of my heart, thank you for all the love and support you’ve shown me throughout the year. It never goes unnoticed and it is always appreciated.
So 2020, here’s looking at you kid.