On Thursday the 3rd of December, the world marks International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Observed since 1992, the day exists to promote the experiences of people living with disabilities, to share understanding and, importantly, to raise awareness of the undeniable value of inclusion for all within our society.

At their latest meeting, our Carlisle Self Advocacy Group got together, via video call. Among a jam-packed session, the group considered this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities theme of ‘Not all Disabilities are Visible’.

The group were joined by Health and Social Cares students from Newtown Rigg who had some questions they wanted to ask the members. They had discussions about the experience of school, work/jobs, advice for the students going into the health and social care industry and how the members have found the pandemic.

The group then talked about this year’s theme. Hannah asked everyone if they would like to share their experiences of living through the pandemic.

Lou started the conversation by saying, ‘My experience of the pandemic has been varied. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. I have found the second lock down harder as when it was summer we could go out into the communal garden and social distance but we can’t do that now it is winter.’

One of the day’s focuses is to understand and raise awareness of diverse experiences of the pandemic.

Nicola added, ‘It’s been hard. I’ve enjoyed using Zoom but I wish I could see people in person. I stay in touch with my friends on Facebook but it’s not the same.’

We heard a range of responses that reflected the range of emotions and challenges that have been part of the group’s experience of the past 12 months.

We also heard examples of overcoming challenges, and learning to adapt. Mary said: I have learnt how to manage with changes to circumstances. I have more knowledge and experience it something like this was to happen again.’

International Day of Persons with Disabilities happens only once year. Championing equality and inclusion is a year-round, 365 day commitment. Conversations like those had by our Carlisle Self Advocacy Group need to take place and need to be heard. It is through these conversations that we can appreciate the experiences of others and use this to create a more inclusive society.

Thank you to every member of the Carlisle Self Advocacy Group, and all Self Advocacy Groups for coming together to share experiences and views.