My name is Mei Lin Yap, I am 31 years old and I have Down Syndrome. I live with my mum Áine and my dog in southside Dublin. I went to main stream school and after completing my Leaving Cert Applied, I went on to further education. I eventually became a student in Trinity College Dublin through the Trinity Centre for People with Intellectual disability. To be a graduate of Trinity College is one of my proudest boasts. I am lucky to be one of a small percentage of people in Ireland with an intellectual disability who is in paid employment. I struggled to secure a permanent, paid job so as one of the lucky few, I want to change people’s perceptions of hiring someone with a disability. I work in Cpl Recruitment Agency as a HR Assistant and I love it. My job in Cpl is very clearly defined. I am well supported and also challenged and engaged. I belong to a team and I work in an environment that allows me to reach my full potential and through employment, forge a successful path in life. Having a job makes me feel truly accepted and included in society. Without employment it is easy to become isolated.
I am an advocate and a voice for people with Intellectual disabilities. I have written several articles for online magazine Frontline, Irish Voice of Intellectual Disabilities and am also the editor of Frontline’s social media sites. I enjoy public speaking and have been part of CPN, a Self-Advocacy Group of people with extra support needs, who travel around the country giving lectures and talks on issues to do with disability and sexuality to social work and social care students, in universities and colleges. I am also a co-lecturer in Trinity College Dublin in the Social Work & Social Policy Department.
The Open Doors initiative encourages companies in Ireland to give employment opportunities to people with disabilities. The Open Doors Initiative was launched in 2018 and along with the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the CEO of Diageo, I was one of the keynote speakers.
Through the Open Doors I was invited by the British Ambassador to meet with Kate, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William during their recent trip to Ireland. This was very exciting for me especially as I was given some individual time with them. You can watch the video here https://youtu.be/vavlxNP-_EY
I starred in a documentary with IDS-TILDA called “Aging with Pride”. It is a documentary based on the findings of ten years of research by IDS-TILDA led by Prof. Mary McCarran. The documentary ‘Ageing with Pride’ was launched in 2018. You can watch it here https://youtu.be/S2kgoeXp67E
IDS-TILDA is a longitudinal study researching aging in Ireland among people with an intellectual disability aged 40 and over. The underpinning values of IDS-TILDA are inclusion, choice, empowerment, person centered, the promotion of people with intellectual disability, the promotion of best practice and to make a contribution to the lives of people with intellectual disability. I have since been invited by Prof. Mary McCarron to be a member of the IDS-Tilda Steering Committee.
Recently I was interviewed by Ryan Tubridy on his radio program. On the topic of disability, 3 level education and employment. Here is the link to listen: https://www.rte.ie/radio/radioplayer/html5/?fbclid=IwAR033gSmNhcqms_Ct4NPGVVGZxjHbJhyFRyQZbKKW5YgJ2QgE9pT29W7QX0#/radio1/21706082
As you can see, I keep myself engaged with the work that I do and the different projects that I get involved in. My interests are varied. I like to go for walks with my mum and my dog Murphy. I also like to hang out with my work colleagues and with my friends. I like to go to the cinema, meals out, listening to music and just hanging out. I love using social media. I spend a lot of time on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.
To have the energy and enthusiasm for all of my interests and involvements, it is important that I keep fit and healthy. This is particularly important for people with Down Syndrome as we have a tendency to put on weight. I have been involved in sport since the age of four. My mum brought me to swim classes in Glenalbyn as she was adamant that all her children should be able to swim and I was no exception. Eventually, I became a participant in several sports with Special Olympics, Viking Swimmers, and South Dublin Sports Club for athletics and Basketball. Sport was and still is, a very important part of my life. I became involved in Irish Down Syndrome Sporting Org. CLG (IDSSO) in 2002. The Irish Down Syndrome Sporting Org. CLG is an organization that supports high-performance athletes with Down Syndrome to compete at National, International and World swimming events.
IDSSO has given me wonderful opportunities to travel, meet new friends and have fun, as well keeping fit and staying healthy. I have competed in many countries including Ireland, South Africa, Portugal, Taiwan. Italy. France and Canada. I have been busy training and I have qualified to swim at the World Down Syndrome Swimming Championships in Antalya which has been postponed until October 2020 because of the Covid 19 virus. Training can be challenging; As well at training in the evenings after work, I get up at 4:45 am two mornings every week to go to swim training, before work. As an adult with an intellectual disability it can be difficult to access swim training sessions. Sometimes it may be difficult for even a high-performance swimmer with Down Syndrome to keep us with other adults in the group. Coaches may have to try extra hard to ensure the person with intellectual disability does not become an outsider in the group. It is a privilege to represent my Country at the highest level. Through being part of Team Ireland I have had the privilege of being invited to meet two presidents of Ireland in Áras an Uachtaran, Mary McAleese and Michael D. Higgins. I am very proud to describe myself as an international athlete. I am so proud of the many medals I have won and I hope to keep competing as long as I can. Exercise is such an important part of my life. It is never too late to start exercising, to stay active and engaged. The importance of exercise is clear in all our lives, but to improve the lives of people with Down Syndrome, In the words of Prof. McCarron “it is not about adding years to life, it’s about adding life to years”.
My goal in life is to show the world what people with Down Syndrome can do. I like to challenge myself and push the boundaries. I hope to set an example that will encourage, inspire and challenge society to change their perspective in respect of disability. I aim to encourage and inspire young people with disabilities to be the best they can be, to work hard and dream big. Inclusion and diversity is so important and people with disability may need support to achieve full inclusion in society. At this stage of my life I have come to terms with who I am. I don’t see myself as being disabled, but I am aware of my needs and I recognize that I need supports in certain aspects of my life. I have the same hopes, dreams and aspirations as everyone else. Society’s acceptance of diversity and respect for the rights of individuals with disability are fundamental necessities for true inclusion. I am aware that when we dream big and others dream big for us, then we can achieve our full potential.