Q&A with Christina Ryan

A lot has changed in the disability sector over the years, but one of the things that hasn’t is the passion and determination of those movers and shakers who are out there creating change and chasing the best in life. 

We recently spoke with Christina Ryan, CEO and founder of the Disability Leadership Institute and an all-round go-getter! Christina has been an active leader in the Australian disability community for over 20 years, and she is dedicated to supporting people with disabilities to make their own leadership success. 

Where did your passion for supporting people with disabilities start?

As a person with a disability, I am simply part of a larger movement of disability rights activists and we all work together, towards the same great outcome of equality for people with disabilities. 

What kind of experience do you have working with the Australian disability community?

I have worked mostly with Women with Disabilities Australia on issues like violence against women, and have also been on the Board of Women with Disabilities ACT. For over eight years I was the CEO at Advocacy for Inclusion, an independent disability advocacy organisation in Canberra.

Can you tell us a bit about the Disability Leadership Institute?

The Disability Leadership Institute (DLI) is the world’s only specialist disability leadership organisation, and was founded in 2017. We have members in over 15 countries as most of our work is virtual, which is great for many of us who find travel difficult. The DLI has short and long courses and a big 12-month leadership program, so people can get involved no matter what stage of leadership development they are at.

How do you support people with disabilities to become better leaders?

Easy, we give people licence to be leaders. We create a safe environment to develop and grow, and we acknowledge the advantages that disability brings to leadership. We also push people very hard and they love it.

What drove you to establish the Disability Leadership Institute?

I had been working on the frontline to combat violence when I attended the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Summit on Violence Against Women. I was one of only three women with disabilities to do so which is when I realised that we would never address violence without addressing inequality. I believe that to address inequality, we need to be in leadership and decision-making roles in all fields. We can’t keep tapping politely on the door asking to be let in, we need to be in those spaces as equals who are valued.

We are lacking in disability leadership, and many people with disabilities have found mainstream leadership programs aren’t providing the accessible, inclusive measures they need to get involved and succeed. So, I decided it was time to do something about creating our own strong space!

What’s your message for our clients about reaching their goals and becoming leaders?

Do it! Start by downloading your personal Leadership Development Plan via our Facebook or LinkedIn page and get your 2019 mapped out. Stick with it, persistence is everything. Value yourself.

Want to know more? You can learn more about the Disability Leadership Institute at disabilityleaders.com.au

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Portrait photo of Christina Ryan. Christina is wearing a black shirt and has short grey hair. The background is of an office.