AHEAD: Association for Higher Education Access & Disability
Creating inclusive environments in education & employment for people with disabilities.


WAM Symposium: Intersectionality & Disability

The WAM programme at AHEAD are running it's first virtual symposium aimed at employers, higher and further education staff, students and graduates with disabilities and NGOs working in the sector. 

When: Wednesday 7th July from 10am - 1.00pm. 

Intersectionality is the understanding that all people have identities that combine and overlap to make up our individuality. This symposium from WAM will look at the intersection of disability in employment with other identities. We’ll hear from organisations and from people with lived experience on the intersections of race, socio-economic status and the LGBTQIA+ community.

Throughout the symposium we will begin to understand the duality of barriers and how we can ensure our workplaces foster supportive environments for a diverse and individual workforce.

The Symposium will be broken down into two sessions starting with information about what is intersectionality, the perspective of socio-economic status, migrants and the LGTQIA+ community in employment followed by a comfort break and a lived experience panel discussion with room for Q&A. 

Speakers and Panellists:

  • Paul McKeon - Diversity and Inclusion Advocate 
  • Alison Payne - Integration Support Worker from BTIC's EPIC
  • Maria Ní Fhlatharta - Disability Law & LGBTQIA+ Activist
  • Lydia Gratis - Anti-racism Educator & Activist, Black Wellness Content Creator, deaf youth advocate
  • Robbie Lawlor - HIV Activist, PhD Candidate
  • Blessing Dada - BIPOC Mental Health Advocate

10am - 11.45am 

Session 1

  • Paul McKeon 
  • Maria Ní Fhlatharta 
  • Alison Payne


12pm - 1pm

Panel Discussion

  • Lydia Gratis 
  • Robbie Lawlor
  • Blessing Dada 
  • Paul McKeon 

 Speaker and Panel Biographies 

Paul McKeon - Diversity & Inclusion Advocate

Paul McKeon is a Higher Executive Officer in the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission in the Civil Service. He is a Equality Legislation specialist with demonstrable experience of driving change through a Legal, Policy and Civil Society context across a range of issues relating to Housing, Education, Sport, Disability, Employment, Decent Work and Socio-economic issues. Most notably, his work around the case for the inclusion of a socio-economic status ground in Irish Anti-Discrimination Equality Legislation led to a commitment for its inclusion in the Programme for Government in 2020.

Paul is also an Emerging Voices member in the Institute of International & European Affairs where his work on making the case for adding Socio-Economic Status as a 10th Ground to Irish Equality Law is featured in the IIEA Emerging Voices – A Future of Europe Anthology, launched by Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee in 2019.

At a European Level, Paul has also represented Ireland. In 2019 Paul was selected for the German Foreign Offices Young Leaders Programme. This was a unique opportunity for a select group of Emerging Leaders to meet and share their ideas and work with high profile relevant German public figures and authorities relating to Foreign Affairs, Equality, Brexit and the Economy.

Relating to this work in 2017, Paul was invited by the Taoiseach of the time Enda Kenny to offer his contributions into the government-led Mulvey report into social exclusion, discrimination, poverty and crime in Dublin’s Inner City.

Before entering into the Civil Service, he worked in a Policing context in An Garda Siochana. He also spent time working in Child Protection as a Social Care Key worker within a number of Residential Units for young adults in care.

During Paul's search for employment he availed of the Employability and WAM programme along with supports for people with Dyslexia through the National Learning Network which helped him navigate the many structural barriers he came across in his search to secure employment.

Alison Payne - Integration Support Worker for Business in the Community's Employment Programme EPIC

Alison Payne is the Integration Support Worker for Business in the Community’s Employment Programmes. She has over 13 years’ experience working with vulnerable groups and 9 years’ experience working with migrant job seekers. Alison primarily works on the on the EPIC programme (Employment for People from Immigrant Communities), which supports migrants into employment, education and training, making an impact on diversity and social inclusion in Ireland.  She believes that knowledge gives us power and provides an advice and referral service as well as group training, work placements and mentoring to job seekers. This makes good use of her experience and passion for helping people manage stress and integrate into Irish society. She holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from NUI Galway. Business in the Community helps businesses take action on Inclusive Employment. Read about their Elevate pledge for inclusive workplaces at https://www.bitc.ie/

Maria Ní Fhlatharta - Disability Law & LGBTQIA+ Activist

Maria has a particular interest in legal capacity and reproductive decision making, as well as access to reproductive health care for marginalised groups. Maria has addressed a number of conferences on issues relating to reproductive rights and disability, both in Europe and internationally. Maria has a keen interest in reproductive justice and worked on the campaign platform for “Together For Yes”. She has also spoken on a number of TV and radio panels on issues of human rights and equality. In 2018 she was involved in the negation of the Nairobi Principles on prenatal testing. She is a board member of the Disability Rights Fund. She holds an LLM in Comparative International Disability Law and Policy and is a graduate of the BCL in NUI Galway Law. Her other research interests include prisoner rights and access to justice.

Lydia Gratis - Anti-racism Educator & Activist, Black Wellness Content Creator, Deaf Youth Advocate

Lydia Gratis is an anti-racism educator and activist, social media content creator, founder of Ubuntu European Deaf Youth a focus group under European Union for Deaf Youth catering to Black Youth & Youth Of Colour around Europe. 

Lydia is also an Irish Deaf Society and Deaf Women Space board director, an Anthropology and International development student at Maynooth University and the Social Inclusion and Communications Officer at Sign Language Interpreting Services.

Robbie Lawlor - HIV Activist, PhD Candidate

Robbie became active within the HIV community since his diagnosis in 2012. Robbie is a member of European AIDS Treatment Group and is a co-founder of Access to Medicines Ireland. Robbie is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Dublin City University and has a particular interest in grassroots activism and the access to medicines movement in Eastern Europe. His research is exploring HIV/HEP C treatment activism in Ukraine. 

Blessing Dada - BIPOC Mental Health Advocate

Blessing, from Dublin, Ireland, is an award-winning mental health writer, speaker & content creator/blogger, who’s an outspoken passionate activist on various social justice issues, especially on mental health awareness.

Accompanied with her own lived experiences with all things mental & chronic illnesses, she raises awareness of perspectives for Black & other ethnic minority communities in Ireland.  She is also passionate and a student for Youth & Community Development. Being involved with numerous organizations & projects such as appearing on some podcasts & charity projects, SpunOut.ie and SeeChange are some to name: & spread awareness through education.”

Register here for the Symposium

Download WAM Intersectionality Poster

Follow AHEAD

  • Follow AHEAD on Twitter
  • Join AHEAD on Facebook
  • See AHEAD on YouTube
  • Link in with AHEAD on Linked In

Search AHEAD

Video: How we help students & Graduates Succeed

Creating Inclusive Environments in Education and Employment for People with Disabilities

East Hall, UCD, Carysfort Avenue, Blackrock, Co Dublin.
T +353 1 592 1467 E ahead@ahead.ie W www.ahead.ie RCN 20025182