2018 was an extremely eventful year for the Independent Living in Ireland. Last July, we changed our name from Centre for Independent Living (CIL) to Independent Living Movement (ILMI) to reflect our all-Island approach. Our vision: An Ireland where disabled persons have freedom, choice and control over all aspects of their lives and can fully participate in an inclusive society as equals.

We re-branded at our extremely successful conference “Building a Movement for Change: Working together to fight for disabled people’s human rights in the 21st Century” on the 22nd September. It was a historic day as over 70 people were there to witness ILMI launch its vision of an Ireland where disabled people have freedom, choice and control over all aspects of their lives and can fully participate in an inclusive society as equals and officially launch our new Strategic Plan  as well as our new Logo and website (www.ilmi.ie).

Those present at the launch were treated to a fascinating panel discussion with Rosaleen McDonagh, Leigh Gath and James Casey, with Dermot Hayes as MC. The discussion focused on the real benefits of collective action to bring about change, and I think we all left the room energised by the possibilities. A special word of thanks must go to Minister Finian McGrath TD who took time out to be part of our day and officially launch our new organisation. ILMI member Desmond Kenny captured the energy best when he said: “I am confident that Saturday’s launch of ILMI in the Spencer Hotel, Dublin, will come to be marked down as one of those seminal moments in the progressive evolution of a rights-based movement of persons with disabilities”.

New Strategic Objectives

As a collective, we have been engaged in regional workshops, discussions and training sessions over the course of 2018 and into 2019, building a real grassroots-led movement that reflects the lived experience of disabled people. Our strategic plan 2019 – 2022 outlined four key priorities: Leadership & Representation; Promotion of equality & accessing human rights; Political Campaigning & Strategic Policy Development; and Governance, Accountability & Transparency.

The board of ILMI is led by disabled people, making ILMI a DPO as defined by the UNCRPD. Our board is made up of: Selina Bonnie, Audrey Brodigan, Sarah Fitzgerald (Secretary), Shelly Gaynor (Chair), Dermot Hayes, Desmond Kenny, Sinead Murtagh, Michael Nestor (Vice Chair), Dr John Roche and Gordon Ryan (Treasurer).

Leadership & Representation: Promoting Independent Living in Ireland

Part of our strategic objective on leadership and representation is about building a shared understanding about the philosophy of Independent Living. Over the course of November, ILMI held Leader training in Dublin, Offaly, Leitrim, Limerick, Cork, Sligo and Ennis to almost 100 leaders based on an ILMI Leader Training manual. This manual will be published online in March 2019, providing an invaluable resource to Leaders managing their Personal Assistance Service.

Our focus in 2019 is now about developing collective shared approaches to ensure that disabled people’s voices will be heard in the development of local, regional and national policy in Ireland- putting into practice “Nothing About Us Without Us”.

In 2018, we also launched our #IndependentVoices video campaign which featured 8 leaders talking about what Independent Living means to them, which was filmed by ILMI members Peter Kearns and John Owens. These clips were shared widely on social media and are an invaluable resource for connecting with disabled people globally on what independent living means. This sort of synergy between activism and creative media is something we can look to develop further in 2019 and beyond and we already have plans for our next exciting use of video and social media to challenge stereotypes and promote disabled people’s voices.

Equality and Human Rights

We brought 2018 to a very successful close with the launch of the ILMI Guide to the Law in relation to disability. This document is such an important resource for us as a collective as part of our strategic objective Promotion of equality & accessing human rights. ILMI’s work and approach is now firmly grounded in a human rights and equality approach and this guide provides us with the information we need to further build that analysis. Our Legal Guide, Strategic Plan and other campaign materials can be accessed on https://ilmi.ie/key-policy-documents/

Strategic Political Campaigns

Central to the way that we work is the development of policies based on the lived experience of disabled people from across the island of Ireland and the development of policies and campaigns that will bring about a more inclusive society. Our plan has identified four core policy areas for change in the next three years: Employment, Transport, Housing and Personal Assistance. We use a combination of local face-to-face and video conferencing to build dynamic, participative spaces that build cohesive, collective policies and strategies.

In March, we began a process of discussion across the country with leaders on building a Strategic Collective campaign on the Personal Assistance Service. From this consultation, we developed our #PASNOW campaign, and followed this up with political campaigning workshops with over 100 leaders from across the country. Through our links with the Public Interest Litigation Association (PILA) and NUIG Center for Disability Law and Policy we will build on this campaign to work on ensuring a right to a Personal Assistance Service and building on our political campaigning work.

This will only work if we as a collective ensure that our elected representatives hear disabled peoples’ voices in a collective, strategic campaign. Our strategy is to bring legislation to the Dáil (Irish Parliament) in early summer 2019 and we hope to build on successes won by comrades in Europe to ensure a right to Personal Assistance.

The role of a grassroots Disabled Person’s Organisation: Making change real

There is now an energy, momentum and, importantly, an expectation that ILMI can be a driver for real change in society. That has come about by so many people working together as a collective. In a short space of time we have done so much. More importantly, it is just the beginning of what ILMI can be and what change it can achieve. What is possible comes from the huge contribution made by members across the country, who have give their knowledge, energy and expertise to be part of a Movement for change. Hopefully 2019 will be the year that delivers some of that change.

For more information visit www.ilmi.ie or email info@ilmi.ie

Nina Byrne,                                                                                                                                                    Independent Living Movement Ireland