February 8, 2017

Report on International Self Advocacy Conference Orlando Florida Oct. 27-30, 2016

Organized by Inclusion International and the ARC

People First Nova Scotia began fundraising in July 2016 to send members to the International Conference on Self Advocacy in Florida. Four presidents and one member, who worked through the summer in the office, worked hard over four months to raise funds and awareness. They created a Tilt website, completed several newspaper articles across the province, developed a video that was placed on the Tilt site and held local fundraisers in their communities.

Two chapter presidents, Leta Jarvis of Truro Chapter and Evelyn Oatman of Windsor chapter, both raised money to attend the Conference. Our youngest member, Jolene MacKenzie, of Truro, also raised money and attended. The Executive Director of PFNS , Cindy Carruthers, travelled with the three ladies as a support person. Funding from the Tilt site, and specifically funding from our largest anonymous donor, assisted greatly in helping fund the support person and subsidized the cost for the three self advocates.

 We arrived on Thursday, October 27th and it was Busy! There were 960 delegates from 46 different countries in attendance at our conference!!!

Hundreds of these self- advocates attended the Leadership Summit and gave their feedback on self- advocates for persons with disabilities in their countries and shared ideas.

We then attended a Panel interview with the cast of “Born This Way” ( The seven cast members answered question about their lives, work and social life. Their parents joined them and talked more about life with special needs and being included.

We then attended a Reception with the cast and were able to get group pictures with them! It was great! Cast members got up and danced and talked to everyone as well.

 That night we attended a Pool Paradise Party. There were three pools, a hot tub and lots of refreshments!

We had wonderful breakfasts at the conference and they gave us very healthy nutrition breaks!

 On Friday, October 28th we attended several sessions run by self-advocates and their support people. Two of them were:

“My Voice Matters” – this was a panel of self-advocates from different countries talking about how they self-advocate in their homeland. We used translator headphones, as many of the presenters spoke in their native language and it had to be translated for us through the headphones. This was a very interesting session and we really enjoyed it! We took pictures of some of the other groups here and exchanged contact information, so we can write them. Some of these contacts were from Taiwan and several countries in South Africa.

“Self Advocacy/Self Determination”– This session was about person centred planning – having the individual person present and involved in planning for themselves. There were lots of great discussions and material from this session.

Leta also had her life story videotaped to be used to spread Advocacy around the world!

 We went to the General Assembly in the afternoon. There were a lot of speeches. We heard Harry Roche from England explain about the next International Conference in May 2018. England is hosting this big event.

 Friday night we all got dressed up and walked the Red Carpet and took lots of pictures. We attended a Film Festival of about 12 short films from around the world. They showed many successes of people with disabilities around the world and lots of great personal stories! Favorites were the boy who memorized show dogs and told all the owners about their dogs when he went to the shows and the lady from Australia who wanted to jump off a cliff and spent six months to get ready and succeeded!

 Saturday morning we went to a session on Housing and Supports. Presentations were done by groups from Australia and England and our own People First of Canada group! They did great!

The last session was an interview with two brothers who completed the families life story with Disney Productions ( The younger brother was autistic and the family was losing touch with him when they discovered he had memorized all of the Disney animated movies. They learned to talk to him through these dialogues.

 We spent some time at the pools, went to Disneyworld and made some great friends in the People First Canada group. Also this was the first international flight for Evelyn and Jolene and the first flight ever for Leta! Lots of firsts and experiences!

 We made contacts with self-advocates from Nepal, England, Chile, Madrid and Taiwan and plan to contact lots more from the website of the event. We also received a Global Report on the Self Advocacy Leadership summit. We will be presenting our slides, material and this report to the members at our Annual Conference in June 2017.

 We look forward to continuing our conversations with the self-advocates we have met. We greatly appreciate all the help we were given to experience this amazing trip. Stay tuned for our next adventures!

You can follow us on our website and our Facebook page. You can also watch for us on the news!!


 Leta Jarvis – president, PF Truro

Evelyn Oatman, president, PF Windsor

Jolene MacKenzie – Pf Truro – secretary

Cindy Carruthers -Executive Director, PFNS