Kathleen Gittens and Paul Crilly. Picture: Pat Moore
Social Ability Kilkenny is to host an important evening of talks on the topic of ‘self-advocacy’ here next week.
The group is hosting an information and social evening in Butler House on Thursday, May 17 at 7pm. The main guest speaker is barrister Kate Butler of Inclusion Ireland, whose talk is entitled ‘How to make your voice heard: Lessons from self-advocacy, law and human rights’.
One of the event’s organisers and MC is Paul Crilly, a longtime advocate for people with intellectual disabilities in Kilkenny, who together with Kathleen Gittens has helped host previous Social Ability Kilkenny events. However, says Paul, while social events were well attended, the self-advocacy evenings were less so.
“We decided we needed to have both, so we’ve brought in Kate Butler to discuss how you put the two together,” he says.
Paul says the aim is to see people with intellectual disabilities respected, and to ensure they have a voice. They’re hoping to set up a steering committee on foot of next week’s meeting.
“It’s not just for people with intellectual disabilities; it’s also for the wider community,” says Paul.
Kathleen Gittens says if you get the social part right, the advocacy will follow.
“You have people who don’t know what advocacy is or what their rights are,” she says.
She says in some cases, people might not understand the information or it isn’t passed on. Paul says he dislikes the term ‘vulnerable’.
“If you are a self advocate, you are not vulnerable,” he says.
“We need support. If the council is making a decision on something, it is the end user who needs to be consulted. Everyone has something to contribute.”
Kathleen says she hopes the event will bring a bit more awareness to the issues being faced, and of other people's needs.
“Just because you can’t understand doesn’t mean people [should] just go over your head or do it anyway,” she says.
Paul would like to thank everyone who has supported the group, and is encouraging people to attend. People are also invited to Brogan’s on John Street afterward if they wish.
Also speaking on the night will be Robert Murtagh of Inclusion Ireland, and Kathleen Gittens. Author and self-advocate Paul Alford will also be selling copies of his book at the event.