independent

Monday 14 October 2019

Disability talk attracts large crowd

Back: John Carr, Jonathan King, Caroline Horan (access officer Wexford Co. Council), Noel Stacey and Pat Rath. Seated: Sean Connick and Annette Dupey at the ‘Let’s Talk About Disability’ organised by PNN (Public Participation Network) in Oylegate Community Centre
Back: John Carr, Jonathan King, Caroline Horan (access officer Wexford Co. Council), Noel Stacey and Pat Rath. Seated: Sean Connick and Annette Dupey at the ‘Let’s Talk About Disability’ organised by PNN (Public Participation Network) in Oylegate Community Centre

Brendan Keane

Oylegate Community Centre was the venue recently for a talk focussing attention on disability issues last week.

The event, which was organised by the Public Participation Network (PPN), took place on Wednesday, May 8.

Around 40 people attended the public event at the invitation of the PPN and the event was based around the theme of 'Let's Talk About Disability'.

The Wexford PPN is a network for community and voluntary organisations across the county.

A spokesperson for the organisation said the aim of the event was to 'bring together those with an interest in the [disability] area to establish a new group within the network called Wexford PPN Voice For Disability.

'The event sought to hear the experiences that people with disabilities face in their daily lives, to record these and importantly, to refer them to the relevant decision making committees in the county,' said the spokesperson.

The views and opinions expressed on the night will be replayed back by Wexford PPN through a team of over 30 volunteer representatives across 12 decision-making committees in the county including key committees within the county council.

Oylegate Community Centre was chosen as the venue for its ease of mobility access and a signer and hearing loop was provided for those who are hard of hearing.

The event was a mix of presentations and round table discussions.

The MC for the night was Pat Rath who is a volunteer member of Wexford PPN's organising committee.

He pointed out there are 25,000 people registered with a disability in Co. Wexford and that all they want are the same things that everyone else enjoys.

'They want and need to be involved at the planning stage for all services affecting them and to have their views heard in respect of decisions affecting them as they live with their disabilities,' he said.

Mr Rath also said people with disabilities in the county want 'full compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2005'.

Former TD, Sean Connick, was the guest speaker at the event and he outlined his work drawing attention to the restrictions Faced by people in wheelchairs locally and in Dáil Éireann.

Mr Connick has been a wheelchair user since he was involved in a road traffic accident 42 years ago.

Pointing out that he was the first elected TD in a wheelchair and that in Dáil Éireann he needed a lift, ramps, a specific space in the chamber, and his office located near the chamber due to the Dáil voting process having a strict time frame.

Mr Connick commented that over the years pubs, churches, cinemas, restaurants, hotels, and other public buildings were very inaccessible for him and that he had to go to a hotel in another county for his wedding reception.

He suggested that as part of their training, architects and others should spend some time in a wheelchair to see the challenges users face on a daily basis.

Mr Connick complemented the Wexford PPN for organising the event and said that it's only through community activism that changes can be made.

Caroline Horan, Access Officer with Wexford County Council, also spoke at the event.

Ms Horan is the point of contact for accessibility issues throughout the county and is available to contact by email at caroline.horan@wexfordcoco.ie or phone 053 9196418.

Ms Horan said that when someone contacts her she records their complaint or concern, has the matter examined and comes back with a response.

Her presentation outlined a range of work Wexford County Council has done including provision of beach wheelchairs and sensory gardens to influencing the design of library buildings, accessible playgrounds, and things like seating with back and arm rests.

As people age they need more supports and it was highlighted on the night that designs must be future-proofed to ensure accessibility.

It was pointed out to those in attendance that initiatives such as the installation of a changing area in the Irish National Heritage Park and an accessible point at Gorey Garda Station were demonstrative of the continuing work being done by the local authority to create an accessible county.

Ms Horan said the local authority can't make retailers carry out modifications, however, many are willing to have level access provided.

'The Council has also produced a guidance booklet for the retail sector [on how] to improve premises accessibility,' said Ms Horan.

That booklet is available through www.wexfordcoco.ie.

Over 50 different concerns were raised through the round table discussions that took place on the night.

The issues ranged from housing matters and the need for a public toilet location app to the need for better, larger, disabled parking spaces to allow for rear access ramps to be used.

Among the other concerns raised was the need for a signer in a hospital setting.

The PPN spokesperson said that each point raised was assigned to a specific decision making committee or contact within Wexford Co Council.

Mr Rath also assured the attendees that the PPN will forward all comments and concerns made to the relevant committees and will follow up to ensure a response is received.

He thanked everyone for attending and paid tribute to the members of Oylegate ICA group for providing refreshments.

It's expected that more PPN meetings of a similar nature will take place towards the end of the year.

Membership of Wexford PPN is free and open to community and voluntary organisations across the county.

To find out more log onto www.wexfordppn.ie or contact the organisation through its Facebook page, or by phone at 053 9196553.

Wexford People

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