Speaking at the Launch of the ‘Life Size Invisible Lives’ event organised by Destined – a self-help group for people with learning disabilities in An Culturalann, Derry today Sinn Féin MEP, Martina Anderson said:
“The Personal Statements we heard here shows the impact that Destined has had on your lives.
“As an organisation, Destined, has empowered you, some of the most vulnerable in our society, with the means to tell your stories to thousands throughout the city and beyond. Your message is simple, and it is that you are not just people with a disability but rather people who have a contribution to make to all of our personal developments.
“The City of Culture has enabled this city to grow, to share and to care about others – and the Fleadh taking place during this City of Culture year topped it for me. Well that was until today, this event has gone further.
“In 2009 Destined published a book called ‘Invisible Lives’which gave an opportunity to people with learning disabilities to tell about their life – your life experiences. What you had to say then gave this city an insight into the lives of a, once isolated, group of individuals who live among us.
“There is no doubt that this project has continued to unlock the creative talent within each of you.
“Four years on our insight and understanding continues to grow as 40 of you, represented by life size cut-outs, have each made a personal statement challenging popular perceptions of people with learning disabilities.
“You have not only succeeded in challenging us in this room today – but you have and will continue to challenge thousands throughout this city in the weeks and months ahead.
“The 40 life-size representations which will be on display at different locations and which will be movable so that at times they may be individually at a location or in a crowd at a different venue, will ensure you are in the key places at the right times.
“This Initiative connects in a significant way those with learning disabilities to the rest of society those, which should result in improved interaction and integration.
“Your personal statements heard here today allow for purposeful inquiry – as they give us an insight into the issues affecting your lives.
“Because without doubt, people with disabilities do not have the same opportunities: you face barriers – when studying, when looking for a job, when travelling, when purchasing goods and services or simply when accessing information, that most of us do not have to face.
“The EU disability Intergroup, of which I am a member, and I am a member because of the way you have enriched my life, – is working to pressure EU Institutions to deliver on the Disability Strategy 2010-2020, which notably includes accessibility and participation of disabled people as priority areas.
“This campaign at an EU level aims to give disabled/vulnerable people the space and opportunity to pursue their own “personal aspirations, likes and ambitions” without being discriminated on the basis of their disability.
“Your project clearly demonstrates how creativity can be unlocked, how stereotypes can be challenged and how connections can be made all of which are testament to the role that you all have to play in shaping a new society. For sure Derry has a New Story to tell – and today I think one of the most important chapters has been written.”