I want people to treat me as an equal member of society – Tamara Byrne

Tamara Byrne from EDF Youth Committee spoke at the European Day of Persons with Disabilities conference. She talked about her journey from education to employment.

I want people to treat me as an equal member of society - Tamara Byrne

Tamara Byrne spoke at the European Disability Parliament in Brussels on 23 May 2023.

Tamara has recently joined the EDF Youth Committee as a representative of Inclusion Europe.

This is what Tamara said:

Tamara Byrne speaks at the European Disability Parliament.

Tamara Byrne speaks at the European Disability Parliament.


My name is Tamara and I am a self-advocate from Ireland

I am really happy the European Disability Forum asked me to speak today.

And thanks to Inclusion Ireland and Inclusion Europe for supporting me.


I have faced lots of barriers as a person with an intellectual disability and my rights are often ignored.

I say I am really lucky in my life but it should not be about luck, it is my right to be treated like anyone one else in my country.


Like Ireland, lots of governments have agreed to sign up to the UN CRPD, but signing up to do something and actually doing it are two very different things.

I don’t understand why governments do not have representatives with real life experience, who can discuss our challenges and needs and make meaningful changes so we can live our best lives the same as everybody.

I should be allowed to be myself and not be made to feel judged or put down when I try to live a life of my choosing.


I went to a mainstream Montessori school, primary school, and secondary school.

My family fought hard to make sure I could go to school in my local area with other children in my community.

All I needed to go to these schools was good support from a Special Needs Assistants and my teachers.


Because these people did not make me feel judged, I always felt comfortable to ask for support when I needed it.


Tamara Byrne at the European Parliament

Tamara Byrne at the European Parliament


I often thought I was lucky for achievements in life like being allowed to graduate from a school and college but I have a right to education and worked hard for these things.

I don’t think people realise that how our society is set up can take away my choice on so many things, like where I want to work, what kind of a job I want, where I want to live and who I want to live with.

It is really important to me to have my opinion heard because I deserve enough respect to have people listen to me.


I dream of travelling around Ireland and Europe independently for education, work or social activities and having a support person to help me when I need one to do this.

I want to have an independent life, not always relying on parents or family members to accompany me or give me a home.

I have to get my family to help with everything because I can’t get a job to earn my own money.


I deserve to be treated as an adult not as a child forever, my parents can’t provide for me for the rest of my life.

I worry about how I can afford to live independently and join in my community if I am always fighting to be seen.


I have produced and presented radio shows. I lead by example giving time and making it accessible by using plain language and smaller words.

I did not get paid for this work as I volunteered my time so I could build my experience and show that young people with an intellectual disability can work in media.


If government and local authorities employed more people with disabilities, then policies and community planning would be written by people with lived experiences and we would not be ignored by society.

As figure heads and spokes people, politicians need to be leaders of meaningful change.


We all need support in life and a person with a disability is no different so peoples attitudes need to change.


People see me and think I can only do certain things so they don’t even give me a chance, it doesn’t occur to people that I might be well able to do more and be really good at it.

I want people to treat me as an equal member of society and give me a chance to pay my way as one too.


Governments also need to let us work and not take away money that we need to cover the extra cost of disability.

And most importantly: Young people with a disability need to be seen as a valuable part of the workforce, their communities and society.


Thank You.


Tamara Byrne at the European Parliament

Tamara Byrne at the European Parliament


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