Jackie reminds us that it’s the little things that make a big difference.
When I lost my sight at 16, I never considered for one second my life was over. I knew I would have to adapt a few things, like I’d never drive a car, but switched a Ford for a Labrador instead, then a Shepard retriever.
I left home soon after I lost my sight to better myself and prevent myself or a family member getting harmed by a pillow! I moved to Sligo and lived in a hostel, linked to the NTDI but realised this living wasn’t for me so moved into my first wee flat.
I did my leaving cert, got my social care diploma, a trip to Alaska, then back to get my Honours degree. Throughout all these adventures I lived on frozen pizzas, McDonalds, the college’s sausage rolls, curry chips and so much chocolate Cadbury’s would be proud, because shopping and cooking was out of reach.
When I finally moved into my own house in 2006 my life took another change: this is when I got my first PA. This PA was all mine for my own personal use, as all through my 3rd level education I had one to assist me with lectures, note taking and navigating the college. I realised Tesco, Dunnes and Centra did more than milk and bread! The founding CIL leaders have given me the ability to decide where I shop, the special offers without fail being read to me and the PA telling me of sauces and frozen vegetables they use.
In 2008 I got my first motor: a little black Labrador called Bangles. This dog enhanced my Independent Living and this continued in 2015 when my big hairy Shepard came into my life. Throughout all of this, I have had five simple Personal Assistant hours. These five hours gets me a cuppa, a weekly shop, a hairy floor hoovered and an interaction with another person.
I will be forever grateful to the men and women who have stood up for my rights to access this service. I’ve learned a lot along the way and have changed providers but the philosophy is the same and I can go to Aldi, which would be out of reach without my two legged, workable eyed human.
I know things aren’t perfect but we’re taking sheets out of the books of the men and women that came before us. We will be setting the path for those coming up behind us. So because of the founding leaders who got us here, we as the current generation will be shaping the road ahead for the future people.
I for one am proud for being in this Independent Living Movement. I can shop, chat and chew.