As I like to say, I don’t just want to walk through the middle of the community unnoticed. I actually want to be part of it. But there are big barriers to getting out there. Sometimes it is hard to know what is out there for us and whether we will be welcomed in our community. Like the first day of school or starting a new job.
The barriers are not always outside us though. Sometimes, the barriers are within us. For me, I needed time to overcome the barriers within me, time for people to listen to me and time for my confidence to grow. When you think about it, there are more than 400,000 people in Australia who have an intellectual disability. That’s a lot of people. We need to give people time by listening to them and letting them build their confidence.
I built my confidence through advocacy. I’m a self-advocate and an advocate for others with Down syndrome. That’s the work that makes me happy. Speaking up can be really daunting so it is good to have support and experienced advocates for back up. They have helped me break down barriers to speaking up. But advocates and support people also need to know when to step back and let me go forward. Everyone has an inner voice, it is about believing in yourself to speak up and get out there.
There’s an old saying that you need to learn to walk before you can run. Believing in yourself is the first step. It’s like learning to walk. Once you believe in yourself and get yourself out there, you can create change.
I guess you could say I’m running now.