Having been born with a visual impairment, Clonard resident Emer Mulhall has faced many challenges throughout her life yet she has embraced each one with great enthusiasm.
Now, on recently been elected this year’s President of the Wexford Toastmasters Club, she is gearing up to take yet another one on board. Though such a responsibility could send even the most organised person into a frazzle, Emer is ready for anything that comes her way.
‘Its a challenge but I’m well used to challenges,’ said the Ashford native. ‘Despite being visually impaired, I have gone skiing and have a degree in Modern English and History from Trinity.’
Emer, who has been a member of Toastmasters for seven years, initially put herself forward for another role on the committee. However, she was thrilled when her fellow members suggested that she take up the reins as president.
‘It was a very nice feeling to be honest. I felt really good because it showed that the committee had faith in me,’ she said.
Following a survey of the members to see what changes they would like to be made, Emer made some plans for the year ahead including increasing the number of speeches people make and the incorporation of a questions and answers corner.
‘The questions corner will give new members a chance to ask anything they like about Toastmasters. It gives them an opportunity to learn what it is all about,’ she said.
Emer, who is completely blind, said that public speaking was something that once terrified her. Since joining the club in 2009, Emer said her confidence has greatly increased.
‘Toastmasters has done an awful lot for me and can do so much for so many people,’ she said. ‘When you are visually impaired, your spatial awareness is affected. If you get up to make a speech, you aren’t sure where the audience is, whether your movements or gestures are ok, whether you are doing anything wrong or whether you are facing the audience. The thing about Toastmasters is, when you are finished your speech, somebody evaluates it. People will offer you constructive criticism.’
‘It’s marvellous and has helped me enormously. I’m now much more confident standing in front of people. I’ve done ten speeches so far and an advanced manual.’
Though she reads braille,’ Emer tries not to use it when making her speeches.
‘If you don’t use notes, then you have a fluidity when you are speaking,’ she said.
She does bring one thing with her when making her speeches however: her guide dog Trudy.
‘I always have Trudy there beside me. She’s really well-behaved,’ she said.
With the Wexford Toastmasters Open Night coming up in Greenacres this Thursday night, Emer is looking forward to meeting potential members. She urges anyone with an interest to come along and discover what the group has to offer.
‘I found it all so nervewracking at first. For me, it was mainly because I didn’t know where the audience was. But you find ways around these worries,’ she said. ‘If I can do that, anyone can!’
(First published in the Wexford People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/news/clonard-native-emer-mulhall-makes-a-toast-to-the-year-ahead-as-wexford-toastmasters-president-35137560.html)