Two Hearts Beat as One

Our American adventure sets off !

Here at Áiseanna Tacaíochta (ÁT), we’ve not only taken to the road,  but crossed the seas on an important journey on the path to equality for people with disabilities in Ireland.  Come along and share this journey with us!

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2015 marks the anniversaries of two seminal events in civil rights and disability history which have shaped the way we all live today.

This year has focussed world attention on the 50th anniversary of the historic Selma-Montgomery march, led by Martin Luther King, which progressed and united the civil rights movement in America, and it also celebrates 25 years since the Capitol Crawl in Washington DC, which saw disability activists abandoning their wheelchairs and mobility aids to climb the steps of the Capitol Building to demand and ultimately secure the passing of the influential Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

These two events – both of them journeys which changed the course of history – form the heart of our latest adventure here at ÁT.  Our Director , Martin Naughton – joined by his team of Personal Assistants (PAs) – our Communications Officer, Orlaith Grehan, and our friend, Niall O’Baoill, have set off for American shores in our ‘Two Hearts Beat as One’ initiative.  In a month-long, powerfully symbolic journey designed to connect with the key leaders and locations associated with these remarkable moments in time, we are honouring the initiative and resilience of those who stood up – and continue to stand up – for full equality and human rights.

This is a hugely important journey for us, and – yes, to use an old cliché – a bit of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Arriving in New York on 24th March, we’ve since travelled down through Washington DC, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolin and South Carolina to arrive in Atlanta, Georgia earlier this week.  There, we visited the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, and the Martin Luther King Center, as well as meeting with disability activist Mark Johnson, who has been influential in bringing the ADA forward.

Moving on to Selma, Alabama, we are now commemorating the pivotal march to Montgomery by undertaking the full 55-mile length of the walk ourselves.  Winding our way back to New York  next week, we’ll be stopping off in Washington DC again to meet with more pioneering disability activisits, including Judith Heumann, and to give a series of talks about Independent Living in Ireland to different groups.

Why this journey?  Well, we want to pay respect to the courage and sacrifices of the people who inspired and motivated not only me personally, but the whole Independent Living (IL) movement here in Ireland.  We have learned a lot from our Stateside peers, and we hope to celebrate the mutual admiration and deep bonds which loop between the rights movements in both of our countries.

More than that though, we want to raise awareness and support for a new, emerging movement for people with disabilities here in Ireland.  We will echo and commend the values and experiences we come across in our journey in the inaugural Rights Rally event at the International Athletics Arena in Athlone on 4th May – we won’t say too much now, but stay tuned for more!  On that day, you will see hundreds of people with disabilities joining with their families, friends and communities to make their own journey, and celebrate their civil and human rights.

What we’re doing is exciting: we’re looking to those who generated their moments in time so that we can create one of our own.  Come with us on this journey and share in it: follow all the action over on Facebook and Twitter, and keep an eye on Youtube to see all that we get up to.

This journey is about more than us who are embarking on it: it’s about respecting our shared values, revealing our visions, realising our rights, and inciting positive change.  It’s about tying our past and present together to shape a new and better future for us all.  We want you there alongside us all the way.

President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, wrote a brilliant letter of support for Martin and the initiatives we are undertaking here in ÁT during the year.   Follow this link to read what the President had to say: Letter of Support from President Higgins