I never really did. During my working life, they always annoyed me, they seemed to exist only to suck valuable time out of the day, and give a captive audience to those who like the sound of their own voice.
But sometimes you spot one that looks interesting and useful.
It being the Easter 'holidays', there was no pressure on me to get children up for school in the mornings and Angel was available to babysit, so when I heard of this local meeting about the future for people with a disability, I decided to go, just to see. Especially as it had been a week of depressing disability news, neatly summarised in this post by Musings and Chatterings.
I was hoping to learn something new, and I did, from the excellent speaker from Inclusion Ireland, though it wasn't exactly good news. It was all about the Government trying to find ways to save money from the disability sector and force everyone to live their lives according to the latest big idea, instead of looking at people as individuals and trying to meet their individual needs.
There was also an inspirational speech from a friend of mine who helped establish the DCA Warriors Facebook page that helps families to claim an allowance from the Irish State for their children with special needs. This should be easy, given that those families have enough to be doing already, but instead families are forced to complete mountains of paperwork, which often gets 'lost' and then they usually face several refusals and a tortuous appeals process.
The meeting had been called by one our elected representatives, who has a strong interest in disability, and my respect for him grew as the meeting went on and the audience was invited to contribute. You know those events you go to where they ask for questions and there is an embarrassing silence? Well it wasn't like that at all. Hands were raised all over the packed room, including mine, but sadly I had to leave before I could speak. But plenty of other people did, and it was not comfortable listening. There were people there who wanted to complain, offload, make political points, who just wanted to be heard by someone. There was a depressing edge of quiet dignified desperation to many of voices. Though I did identify with one woman who put her point across in less than a minute and received spontaneous applause for it too.
Even though I left early, it was almost midnight before the both teenagers were asleep and I woke on Friday with hair and dishes unwashed, and in a foul mood that lasted for days. It's a long time since I've been in an room so charged with anger, fear, desperation, disappointment and frustration, and I found it emotionally exhausting and frightening. The negativity really sucked me down. Perhaps I too will feel this way in 10 or 20 years time, but I hope not, I can't bear to dwell on it, even though I really felt for all the other families who were there.
What is the future in Ireland for people with a disability? Pretty bleak was the verdict of the people at this meeting. I have to hope that they are wrong.
Reasons to be Cheerful: Family Fun #R2BC - Late to the party again this week! Hope Michelle can forgive me... It has been a rollercoaster week but I have had a few things that have made me smile: ...