Ontario self-advocates plan 5th advocacy conference
The best part is the friends and making our own decisions about things: Craig Harrison
Wednesday July 4, 2012 -- Michelle Strutzenberger
Self-advocates from across Ontario are planning the 2012 Speaking Out conference, slated to take place Oct. 12-14.
This year’s event includes sessions on public speaking, advocacy and human rights. The keynote will be presented by Jeff Preston, an Ontario resident who has led a number of advocacy activities across the province. He has done some of this work through writing a personal blog on disability rights, as well as travelling by wheelchair from London to Ottawa. The conference also includes lots of opportunity for dancing.
Started in 2007, the Speaking Out conferences are held in Port Elgin for two days and two nights. A conference was organized in each of the years from 2007 to 2010, with three retreats taking place in 2011. For two years, the group also organized fundraising golf tournaments.
All of the planners and most of the presenters for the Speaking Out conferences are self-advocates. Originally involving people from the Walkerton Action Committee and New Vision Advocates in London, the group now includes people from Dream Weavers in Burlington, New Day in Essex and a Wiarton committee.
“It’s important to our group to be doing the conferences for ourselves,” says Craig Harrison, who is with the Walkerton committee.
The team hires someone to start the planning. The same person also helps with running the conference and providing public-speaking practices. Some sponsors also make the work possible.
But for the most part, the onus is on the planning group to make the conferences happen.
“We work hard and do things mostly for ourselves to plan the conference and run things at the conference,” says Harrison.
He notes the group feels a real sense of pride in what they’re able to do, especially when they see how they are making a difference.
“It means a lot to be successful,” says Harrison.
“I really like it when new people who are self-advocates learn and say how much the conference helps them.”
But the best part in all this work — in addition to making their own decisions — is the friends the group has been able to make, says Harrison, adding the group recently decided they wanted to share their story to honour two friends and members who passed away last year.
Learn more about the Speaking Out conferences by clicking on this link.
To learn more about Preston and his work, click here.
Feel free to comment by e-mailing michelle(at)axiomnews.ca.