Tuesday 19 November 2019

Time has come to make way

The Make Way Day initiative saw stickers being placed on items proving obstructive to people with disabilities. Pictures by Brian McDonald
The Make Way Day initiative saw stickers being placed on items proving obstructive to people with disabilities. Pictures by Brian McDonald

Brendan Keane

Wexford County Council has participated in an initiative aimed at highlighting public awareness around how people with disabilities share public areas such as footpaths, open spaces, car parking and other public spaces.

Those with a disability are often compromised because of the inconsiderate actions of able-bodied people.

The Make Way Day campaign was organised in conjunction with some of the county's foremost disability organisations: the Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA); the National Council for the Blind (NCBI); Saoirse Training & Access Group and Community Workshop Enniscorthy and New Ross.

The County Council was one of 15 local authorities that took part in the initiative which was held on Wednesday, September 26.

A spokesperson for the local authority said stickers were placed on vans, cars and bicycles found to be obstructing footpaths while bikes and motorcycles chained to lampposts were another target as such machines can be a trip hazard for those who are visually impaired.

However, illegally placed sandwich boards, bins, barrels and other obstructions were also targeted on the day.

In addition to stickers being placed on such items people were also encouraged to share photos of the obstacles they encountered using the hashtag #MakeyWayWexford.

The local authority spokesperson said the organisations that supported the campaign understand that hazards are caused inadvertently as a result of people just not thinking.

'When people obstruct public footpaths and other spaces by parking illegally, erecting illegal sandwich boards or leaving waste bins out for prolonged periods, no malice is intended towards those with a disability but the hazard occurred simply through a lack of awareness and thoughtfulness,' he said.

The Access Officer with Wexford County Council, Caroline Horan, said the day was an opportunity to overcome the public's lack of awareness towards the needs of people with disabilities.

She also said it was about opening the general public's eyes about hazards presented to people with disabilities as they go about their everyday lives.

'Make Way Day reminds us that 13 per cent of the Irish population have a disability and their needs must be considered, particularly in the context of shared public spaces,' said Ms Horan.

'Bringing in your bin early in the day or clipping your hedge might not seem that important but it's a small action with a big impact for a neighbour who otherwise might not be able to get down the street,' she added.

Local activist and disability campaigner, Theresa Carley from Wexford IWA, took part in the campaign and is fully aware of the potential hazards that exist.

'There have been days when I just had to turn around and go home because my wheelchair could not go around a parked car on the footpath,' she said.

'If you come across enough obstacles like these you eventually don't want to go out at all and that's leads to social isolation.'

Wexford People

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