A great experience in Florida!

by Sara Pickard, DSA Member

Inclusion International ‘Shaping the Future’ World Congress held in Orlando, Florida, 25-29 October 2016.

As part of my work with Mencap Cymru, I currently serve as the elected representative for Europe on an organisation called Inclusion International.

In the past year I have attended conferences in Rome and Madrid but last October provided the highlight of my role so far when I attended the World Congress of Inclusion International, held in partnership with The Arc, an American organisation which supports people with a learning disability, in Orlando, Florida.

The conference was attended by over 1,000 delegates from 46 countries. As an Inclusion International Council member, within a few hours of arriving, I found myself in the first of several days of meetings which involved developing the finer details of the working of the organisation.

One of the main themes of the ‘Shaping the Future’ Conference was the importance of people with learning (or intellectual) disabilities developing their self-advocacy skills which they can use to promote positive attitudes in others. To aid this, we launched the ‘Self-Advocacy for Inclusion Global Report’ which was the result of over two years research work, and consultation with self-advocacy groups across the globe. Click here to get a copy of the report or click on the picture of the report.

The ‘message’ from the introduction to the report included the following statement:

“We are people. We have rights. We want the same opportunities as everyone. We want to have the opportunity to share what we think. We want to live in a world where we are accepted for who we are and what we can do. We want to help others get the support they need to become strong self-advocates”.

I was fortunate to be a co-presenter of one of the main sessions in the Conference on ‘Challenging Stigma Associated with Intellectual Disability’, alongside Dr Katrina Scior from UCL in London, Oonagh Smyth, Director of Strategy and Influence at Royal Mencap Society and Dr Olayinka Akindayomi, a Psychologist and parent of a child with a learning disability, from Nigeria.

Our presentation was well-received and produced a lively debate afterwards.

There was also a very interesting ‘Global Self-Advocacy Leadership Summit’ at which I was one of the facilitators. It provided the opportunity for around 150 self-advocates and their supporters from all around the world to contribute their ideas on how to connect and build networks to empower those with learning disabilities to bring about change.

Other conference sessions focused on hot topics like supported decision-making, assisted death, access to justice, employment, living in the community and families.

At the end of a very enjoyable but intense few days at the Conference my colleague from Mencap Cymru, Zoe Adams, and myself enjoyed a few days ‘down time’ in Orlando which included a trip to the Magic Kingdom as well some relaxing by the pool and…some great shopping!! I am very grateful to colleagues at Mencap and Inclusion International who made it possible for me to be involved in this important event.

The next World Congress will be held in partnership with Mencap and take place in Birmingham, UK, 30 May-1 June 2018 but my work to promote self-advocacy for those with learning disabilities and to promote the work of Inclusion International goes on in the meantime.

You can follow the work of Inclusion International at their website at: