My name is Mei Lin Yap, and I am a graduate of Trinity College Dublin and the Senior HR Assistant on the Group HR team in Cpl, and by the way, I am a young woman with Down Syndrome. I don’t see myself as having a disability. I am aware of my needs and recognise that I need supports in my life. However, I feel more ‘like’ than ‘unlike’ other people. Living life with an intellectual disability can be challenging but I like to push my boundaries and show others what people with intellectual disabilities can do.
A big part of me, is the inclusion I feel in every aspect of my life, from my family and friends to the work I do in college and in my job. But inclusion has not always come easily to me.
I grew up with a very close family, who inspire me to be the best I can be. My brother and my sister are two people that I admire, as they are strong individuals, successful, determined, kind and well educated. But, like them I wish I could live independently, to be in relationship, and to have an active social life.
I try to stay involved and create opportunities to meet people and keep up with my hobbies and interests. My family is growing, I now have a brother-in-law, sister-in-law, a niece, and a nephew on the way. I have some friends close to me that I chat to on a weekly basis over WhatsApp, but unfortunately due to the Covid-19 pandemic we don’t often get to meet up. Before Covid I was meeting up with my friends quite regularly. Using social media keeps me connected to family and friends, informed about what is happening in the world and fully engaged in life.
I have formed some friendships with my colleagues at Cpl, I am really close to a select few that I would chat after work hours as well as during the workday. I look up to and admire a lot of my colleagues, both male and female.
I went to mainstream school, and I got a few hours of resource teaching a week at primary level. My mum felt strongly that I should be educated with my peers which was beneficial for me and my learning. When it came to second level education, things became a little more difficult. My school of choice, where all my school friends were going, refused me a place without even asking about my abilities. However, St. Tiernan’s Community School, let me sit their entrance exam and contacted my mum to say they felt I could do 9 subjects with them. I was supported at school, and my mum was always pushing for as much support as possible. I participated in the school life, and I felt accepted. I feel that the supports that were given to me gave me wings to do what I want to do.
After Secondary school, I was able to complete a number of different diplomas and certificates. I successfully completed the PLC in Business Technology with Marketing at St. Tiernan’s College of Further Education. I have a certificate in Event Management and a certificate in Software Applications from Stillorgan College, a Diploma in Event Management & PR from Dublin Business School and I am a graduate of the Arts, Science, and Inclusive Practice course in Trinity College Dublin.
Attending Trinity was a big deal for me, to be a university student and to attend Trinity is one of my proudest boasts, just like my sister who is also a Trinity Graduate. Having the right opportunity to be a university student, to be exposed to normal experiences of college life, really did help shape me and build my confidence.
In October 2016, The Trinity Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities and the School of Education launched their Business Partners Programme, promoting inclusion and diversity in the workplace. I was invited to speak at the breakfast briefing about my experience in Trinity and about my employment experience since graduation and it was here that I was lucky enough to meet with Anne Heraty, who was Cpl’s CEO, and her Cpl colleagues. Anne invited me to have an interview with some of her colleagues in Cpl and I was picked to be one of the first graduates to have a placement with them. I am delighted to be part of Cpl and the Group HR team as this is most definitely an exciting time for me, and I have been made most welcome, and feel very valued and included in the workplace.
In my opinion, staying connected and being included as part of the team is most important. It stops me from feeling isolated. My team have organised a number of different initiatives that help me to get to know new people outside of my own team. We have Step challenges, online gatherings like Christmas parties, virtual lunches, and other events to stay connected.
I also work as the Ambassador Liaison Officer for Trinity Centre for Aging and Intellectual Disabilities. As part of my role, I am involved in so many great research projects, engaging with stakeholders which is underpinned by Public & Patient Involvement (PPI). Working as part of this team makes me feel valued and making a difference on how to age well in Ireland with Intellectual Disabilities.
I am lucky to be part of such supportive teams but also to be one of a small percentage of people in Ireland with an intellectual disability who is in paid employment. 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 and without this it is easy to become isolated. I have achieved so many wonderful things over the years and having a permanent job makes me feel accepted and included in society.
I am a swimmer. I have been involved with the Irish Down Syndrome Sporting Organisation (IDSSO) for many years. IDSSO promotes and facilitates international and world swimming competition for high performance swimmers with Down Syndrome. I have competed and represented Ireland in many countries, including South Africa, Portugal, Taiwan, Italy, France, and Canada to name a few. I have won many medals in many strokes, but my favourite competition has been the World Down Syndrome Swimming Championships in Limerick where I swam in a number of races, but my highlight was seeing a picture of myself competing in the butterfly, blown up around the pool area. This was shown for the duration of the competition.
In addition to international swimming competition opportunities, IDSSO has given me wonderful opportunities to travel, meet new friends and have fun, as well keeping fit and staying healthy.
It is an incredible feeling when I have won the medals, it makes me feel powerful and I know I have worked hard for it. It makes me feel proud to be an Irish woman. Through being part of Team Ireland, I have had the privilege of being invited to meet two presidents of Ireland at Áras an Uachtaráin, Mary McAleese and Michael D. Higgins. I am very proud to describe myself as an international athlete.
My motivation in life is the desire to succeed -the urge to reach my full potential…these are the keys that unlock the door to personal excellence. Inclusion means being valued, being recognised, and that my voice is being heard. Giving my opinion means something and being an asset to any organisation is very important to me.
Inclusion means that I can be me. I am proud to be Mei Lin Yap, daughter, sister, auntie, cousin, niece, friend, colleague, and swimmer. Oh, and I am also a young woman with Down Syndrome.
Please click on the following links to hear more about my journey…..