NEW YORK — Nicholas Herd, a passionate advocate for the inclusion of individuals with intellectual disabilities, is making his mark at the United Nations Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The conference, held at the UN Headquarters in New York, serves as a platform for international collaboration on disability rights.
Breaking Barriers: Nicholas Herd’s Personal Journey
Herd’s personal experiences have fueled his determination to fight against discrimination. Reflecting on his past, he recalls being bullied during his childhood due to his disability.
Today, he embraces the opportunity to amplify his voice, drawing strength from his younger self.
“I can shout it on the top of a building or off a mountain, bigger than the UN, so that persons with disabilities are included at the table,” Herd proclaimed.
“That’s how big our voice should be around the world. That’s the reason why we’re here in the United Nations. We want to be included.”
This marks Herd’s first attendance at the UN, an occasion that stirred emotions within him. He expressed disbelief at the opportunity to contribute to such a significant global stage.
An Animated Revolution: “Free Bird” and Authentic Representation
As a creative director, Herd finds inspiration in the world of animated films. Growing up watching Disney, Pixar, and Marvel movies, he always felt that something was missing—the representation of individuals with Down syndrome.
However, this changed with the release of “Free Bird,” an animated short film in which Herd serves as the creative director.
Debuting on World Down Syndrome Day in 2021, “Free Bird” brought immense joy to Herd upon its release on YouTube. The film also achieved recognition by qualifying for the 2022 Oscar Awards.
Through this animated masterpiece, viewers are exposed to the authentic representation of a person with Down syndrome, debunking common myths and promoting factual understanding.
Dispelling Myths: Institutionalized Survivors Take the Stage
Herd also seeks to dispel the myth surrounding the institutionalization of individuals with intellectual disabilities. In collaboration with the theater program Sol Express in Toronto, he participated in a play called “Birds Make Me Think about Freedom,” led by institutionalized survivors.
Herd took the initiative to interview these survivors for his talk show, “Keeping It Real with Nick,” gathering valuable insights to enhance the production. Together with fellow Sol Express members, they transformed the play into a collaborative endeavor, not merely about the survivors but with their active participation.
This, to Herd, exemplifies true inclusion.
During one of his interviews, Herd encountered a survivor who shared his yearning for freedom. Recollecting his time in the institution, the survivor vividly remembered watching birds outside, symbolizing the freedom he longed for but was denied.
Herd’s determination to bring about change extends to ensuring that no one, including those who were institutionalized, is left behind. By promoting inclusion and participation, Herd aims to empower individuals with intellectual disabilities and grant them the freedom they deserve.
Empowering Voices: Inclusion and Participation for All
According to Herd, everyone has something unique to contribute to the conversation on disabilities. Their voices deserve to be heard in various arenas, promoting greater inclusivity, awareness, and participation.
He firmly believes that individuals with disabilities have the right to host talk shows and pursue meaningful work. Appreciating his own privileges, Herd acknowledges the importance of family and the sense of acceptance it brings.
With his niece already in his life and the anticipation of his sister’s upcoming baby boy, Herd eagerly awaits the arrival of the newest addition to his family.
While progress has been made, Herd recognizes that more work lies ahead. His unwavering dedication to the cause embodies the aspirations of individuals with intellectual disabilities worldwide. With hope for a more inclusive future, he continues to advocate for freedom, inclusion, awareness, and education.
Hope for the Future: A Family’s Anticipation
As the UN Conference on Disability Rights progresses, Nicholas Herd’s resounding voice serves as a reminder that the journey toward equality requires continued dedication and unwavering commitment.