Hello everybody! Sarah Fitzgerald here. I apologise that I haven’t blogged here in a really long time – I’ve been slacking off! But now it’s time to pull up my socks and play my part in forwarding the Independent Living Movement.
Independent Living Movement? you may well be thinking. What is that? Does it even exist any more?
Of course it does, but any human rights movement is only as strong and as active as the people within it.
As you may be aware, this group ‘By Us, With Us’ are planning a huge Dublin-based event for September with a view to celebrating the successes of Leaders/activists who have passed away before us as well as emphasising the importance of keeping the philosophy of Independent Living alive. Even though the event will be Dublin-based, it’s so important that we have representatives from a wide geographical spread so that everyone across the country has the opportunity to be involved.
Martin Naughton and Donal Toolan have left huge gaps in the Independent Living Movement. You can’t deny that disability activism has quietened down over the last year. Sure, many of us (myself included) are constantly trying to get a message of equality and inclusion out there, but we are working as individuals.
‘By Us With Us’ lends us the opportunity to become something more, to work as a group and have our voices become more powerful. Instead of trying to change things on our own, this group is there to remind us that there is still a need – and always will be a need – for an Independent Living Movement.
‘By Us With Us’ first met in October last year with a view to holding an event to celebrate the lives of the Leaders we have lost since the beginning of the Independent Living Movement. The sad loss of so many Leaders, not just Donal and Martin but many others all over the country throughout the years, shows us that we cannot be reliant on a single person or a small group of people to keep the Independent Living Philosophy alive.
And don’t get me wrong – I know how difficult it can be to find the time to get involved in things. There’s transport issues, health issues, PA hours. I’m not dismissing these as trivial – they’re certainly not. What I am asking you to do is to promote By Us With Us in your Leader Forums, your day centres and your local community.
Just to clarify, ‘By Us With Us’ is an independent activist group working with the administrative support of CIL Carmichael House. We represent ourselves and do not follow the agenda of any organisation. The support of CIL is on our terms.
I am writing to request that you take on the responsibility of promoting ‘By Us With Us’ and our upcoming event in your local community. In order for the Independent Living Movement to survive, we will need fresh new voices as well as the voices of experience. I, Sarah Fitzgerald will be on hand seven days a week to help you coordinate meetings and prepare material. I am also available on email and phone should you need guidance, so don’t think that you will be dumped with a workload you can’t handle!
Look inside your local disability community and identify potential key activists who can join us. Then please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If this could be carried out by 7th July at the latest that will give us plenty of time to get organised for September.
No-one can ever replace Martin, Donal or any other activist that has now passed away. But wouldn’t we be incredibly silly to let a movement fade because of it? Now, in an Ireland where disability rights are regressing, we need to pull together and invite this government and our peers to stand ‘By Us With Us’.
This September we will be holding an event that will put Independent Living back into the public consciousness. I’d love everyone to be a part of that.
Please contact me ASAP.