I was born in Colombia in a family committed to inclusion as a pathway towards building my skills, empowering me to be who I am today. Since my early years, I have had many opportunities. I was a pioneer of inclusive education in Colombia, going to regular education since kindergarten, taking music lessons, and being part of a swim team. When I moved to Canada in 2002, I became a student of the Toronto Catholic School Board, graduating from Marshall McLuhan in 2008. During my tenure there, I became fluent in English, performed in front of my peers and received the “Yes I can” award.
During my final high school years, volunteer and co-op placements gave me an understanding of the importance of having a job. I have been working for Maple Leaf Sport and Entertainment since graduating from Marshall McLuhan. After 5 years at the job, I was awarded for being an outstanding employee. At the end of 2017, I was given sales-related training and assigned additional responsibilities.
Struggling with life’s challenges is never easy. From learning a new language, to finding a job, to creating art with my multiple talents (music, photography and filmmaking); I have worked very hard to achieve my goals. Fortunately, my perseverance has paid off. Just two years ago, I presented my short film “A World for All” in Calgary, Alberta and Melbourne, Australia.
Securing a job, acquiring the needed skills to become independent, building relationships and networking, are essential elements in my life. Such opportunities have allowed me to participate in the community as a valued and contributing citizen. In my experience, having a stable paid job is in great demand by people with intellectual disabilities and their families.
I have become an advocate for people with intellectual disability around the world. As a speaker, I convey a message of hope and bring people together around a vision of a future where everyone can be independent, have a job and play an active role in their community.
I am a microbiologist and biochemist by training. In 1987, the birth of my third son Julian, who was born with Down’s syndrome, motivated me to transform my life. I began a personal journey to transfer my skills and build new knowledge regarding intellectual disability. I joined other families going through similar circumstances. In 1988, I was one of the founders of the Corporación Síndrome de Down – Down’s syndrome Corporation - in Bogotá, Colombia. Alongside professionals, the organization championed the needs of families and individuals with Down’s syndrome. During the following 16 years, I was the director of the Corporation. Between 2000 and 2002, I became a member of the District Council for Persons with Disabilities in Bogotá, representing individuals with intellectual disability and their families.
Exploring the best alternatives for my son Julian and for our family, I became a strong advocate for inclusion. Furthermore, I learned that the knowledge and experience I gained through the years, had to transcend and inspire other families going through similar circumstances.
Since 2003, I joined Inclusion International where I participated in the Global Report on Poverty and Disability. In 2008, I coordinated the II World Report on Inclusive Education ¨Better education for all. When we are included too. A few years later, in 2012, I advocated regarding Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities(CRPD) -¨Inclusive Communities = Stronger Communities¨. One year later I led the Global Campaign for the Right to Decide in relation to Article 12 of the CRPD, ¨Independent but not Alone¨.
Julian is now an adult and has joined the workforce, which is why employment for people with intellectual disability dominates my agenda today. I support initiatives on issues of family and self-advocacy, Inclusive Education, Community Living and Legal Capacity. I strongly believe in the added value that employment brings to the lives of people with intellectual disability and to their families.
Julian will present his “Journey to Employment” and Ines will present: “My Personal Journey Towards Inclusion: Building a Full Life for Julian and our Family”.