The largest disability focussed conference in the country kicks off today (Tuesday, May 10th) with more than 90 participants as people with disabilities campaign for a fairer, more inclusive society for all.
The Rehab Group National Advocacy Conference is attended by people who use Rehab services and are elected by their peers to campaign and lobby for change. The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Advocacy in Action’ and will be held virtually from May 10th – 12th, with opening remarks from the Minister for State with responsibility for Community Development and Charities, Minister Joe O’Brien kicking off the event.
This annual conference is an opportunity for those who are supported by Rehab to share their experiences and voice their opinions on issues that affect their lives directly. The conference will focus on multiple topics that impact those living with disabilities in Ireland. The most significant themes this year will be cost of living, particularly hidden healthcare costs, fuel allowance and the cost of transport.
The conference will also hear several calls about improving rural public transport for people with disabilities, calls around accessible menus in restaurants, and improving information for those living in Direct Provision.
Each year Rehab Group puts forward representatives from the services for regional advocacy committees; the elections for these committee seats are held during the conference. The chosen representatives will discuss issues and advocate for themselves and their peers and their fellow advocates throughout the year. This year 22 candidates are putting themselves forward for election for three regional advocacy committees to bring real change and address issues that affect persons with disabilities.
Many internal and external speakers to Rehab Group will be featured, including an information session hosted by the Department of Social Protection. In addition to hearing calls on issues impacting those who access Rehab’s services, the conference will showcase successful advocacy projects both inside and outside the organisation for the three days, highlighting the importance of advocacy and demonstrating what can be achieved when advocacy is in action.
CEO of Rehab Group, Barry McGinn, said: “Amplifying the voice of the people who use our services is one of the key priorities set out in our new strategy ‘Delivering Our Future’. We have a proud tradition of advocacy in Rehab Group at all levels from one-to-one advocacy to taking action at local level to national campaigns. National Advocacy week is the biggest event in our calendar and after an extremely challenging two years for people with disabilities it is fantastic to see our advocates are as committed as ever. Our National and Regional Advocacy Committee members are our greatest ambassadors and they work hard every day to make lasting change. We are proud to host the biggest disability-centred conference in Ireland this year.”
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