Shaz Ambrose from DWP in Southend recently attended the TUC Disabled Workers Conference in Bournemouth. She told us about her rewarding experiences of being a first time delegate at the conference.
As a disabled individual, it was a privilege and honour to have the opportunity to represent PCS at the TUC Disabled Workers Conference 2018 in Bournemouth among a whopping 187 delegates, 7 observers and 18 visitors, who together represent 22 different unions.
On a bright and early Wednesday morning I set off on the lengthy train journey from Southend-on-Sea to Bournemouth. However, despite travelling regularly and having a cracking sense of direction, I did in fact end up in Portsmouth, which although was lovely, meant I needed to travel an extra 90 minutes via two extra train journeys to end up at the right destination!
After a good night’s sleep I was ready for the next day. I attended the pre-conference meeting on the Thursday at 9am and met my fellow PCS delegates and an observer. As we spoke about the upcoming conference, I was enlightened to the fact that we all had to stand up and actually present to people a particular motion. Although it was slightly terrifying knowing I had to publicly speak to quite a large group, I knew, once I started talking passionately about Motion 13 (subject: Disability Hate Crime) I would be fine. It was also reassuring knowing I would be sitting with my fellow PCS delegates during the conference.
Janine Booth opened the conference with a clear explanation of what was to happen over the next couple of days, which put a first-timer like me at considerable ease. Then 18 motions with 3 emergency motions were put forward and discussed. Each motion was put forward by a specific union with a single delegate proposing the motion and speaking on it. It would then be seconded by a different union with a heartfelt speech explaining why they support it.
It was beautiful to see such a volume of people speak with such passion and conviction on their motions. Other delegates also had the opportunity to speak on each motion in support or opposition and voting was by a show of hands for or against. I was fortunate to hear the arguments supporting a variety of important and intriguing motions which touched on subjects like Brexit, mental health discrimination, the lack of real disabled performers in film and television and access to sports stadiums, to name a few.
Although the speeches and voting could become quite tiring after a long day, the conference social at the end of day one was the perfect way to unwind and meet fellow delegates from a variety of unions.
The final day approached quicker than I thought it would, with the task of completing my speech approaching. Although this experience placed me out of my comfort zone, it was entirely rewarding as I felt a greater sense of self-confidence and pride.
What I personally found astounding overall was how the centre that hosted the conference had truly accommodated for all disabilities, visible and invisible, which warmed my heart having known so many public venues that do not do this. Everyone was looked after with options of gluten free food, a totally accessible building and even bowls of water out for guide dogs. After such an amazing experience, I hope to be able to attend in the future and would definitely recommend this experience to those that a