Monica Wilson
2016 was a milestone year for Disability Action as the organisation celebrated its 30th anniversary. One person who knows the work of the organisation well is Monica Wilson who began work with DA in 1980! As we begin a new year, Monica reflects on the past 30 years & looks to the future for disabled people in Northern Ireland.

It is fitting that on the 30th Anniversary of Disability Action that I reflect on my time here and 30 years of disability in Northern Ireland.

Things have changed over the last 30 years, too slowly for me but things have changed, from the provision of services to speaking about the human rights of people with disabilities - that is how it should be.

Activism is stronger now than 30 years ago and rightly so.  I hope for the future that this personal and professional activism becomes even more powerful and that disabled people’s expectations be a bit more realistic.  People with disabilities have to believe in themselves and do whatever is in their hearts that they want to do.

It is about empowerment, that means that people with disabilities have the power but if you have the power it takes a lot of energy and commitment.  Stubborn is a good word to describe me, if someone tells me not to do something, then I just go ahead and do it.

Going forward we need to have unlikely alliances and use allies that have the power to influence the change.  Hopefully this will be disabled people themselves but we still haven’t got the balance right just yet and more work needs to be done.

People with disabilities, I only have one thing to say for our future – Just Do It!  I know that is another person’s strap line but it applies to all of us.

I suppose I have a range of achievements over the last 30 years but I think it is important to focus on Legislation.  The Disability Discrimination Act was meant to change attitudes and start the Human Right’s Agenda, it changed the Disability Sector itself as some were in favour and some were not.

It is important that Disability Action has the strength and confidence to put their heads up over the barriers and the leadership to believe in the policy, lead the charge and not to just follow.

For the next 30 years the most important thing is visibility - that people with disabilities are seen in the same way and doing the same things as non disabled people.

Monica Wilson
Special Advisor, Disability Action