Donegal Centre for Independent Living (DCIL) members yesterday questioned general election candidates on issues of inclusion and rights for people with disabilities.
During a session at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Letterkenny, DCIL members raised issues of equality, the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and cuts to services that would support independent living.
Paul Fagan, a member of the DCIL committee, said to the candidates, “We aren’t looking for ‘more than’. We’re looking for ‘the same as’.”
DCIL also launched a new video yesterday to highlight Donegal involvement in the national Disable Inequality campaign.
Roisin Kavanagh, DCIL chairperson, told the Democrat the campaign is working to promote the idea that disability is everyone’s issue.
“We’re calling on candidates and asking how they will prioritise and ensure that people with disabilities and their families, who make up well over a quarter of the population nationally, are protected by policy and legislation,” she said.
The campaign has already received strong support locally - the DCIL Facebook page has photos of prominent Donegal people with the Disable Inequality sign to show their support.
“The majority of people with disabilities know what the issues are,” Mrs. Kavanagh said. “It’s about creating awareness out there as well for the rest of the population, for businesses, to support and encourage the rights of people with disabilities.”
“It’s to disable inequality, and that’s very, very powerful,” she said. Toward that end, disability awareness for the broader public is very important, she said.
“The attitudes of some people need to change as well,” she said. “We still have those barriers.” For example, Mrs. Kavanagh said that sometimes when she is out with her husband, people will ask him what Mrs. Kavanagh would like, even with her right next to him.
The DCIL chairperson would like to see all people undergo disability awareness training as part of their induction to work. “Because I do think we should be inclusive in everything,” Mrs. Kavanagh said.
That is a key message of the campaign: This is not about preferential treatment for people with disabilities. The campaign to disable inequality is one of ensuring that all people have the same rights to access and inclusion, that people with disabilities have the same access that people without disabilities can sometimes take for granted.
Mrs. Kavanagh said, “If the right supports are there, people with disabilities are able to live independently.” That may mean more hours of personal assistance, for example. Mrs. Kavanagh said those hours could mean the difference between a person being able to get out and about, being able to work and socialise, or having to stay at home.
“People with disabilities have fought for years for their right to access and we need to keep this moving,” Mrs. Kavanagh said. “It’s about people living a full and fulfilling life, the same as anybody else.
“We’re entitled to that,” she said.
Candidates attending the session included Joe McHugh, minister of state (FG); Pádraig MacLochlainn, TD (SF), Cllr. Niamh Kennedy (Ind); Paula Flanagan (Greens); Thomas Pringle, TD (Ind); Cllr Frank McBrearty Jr (Ind); Cllr. Gary Doherty (SF); Tim Jackson (Ind); Michael Mooney (Ind); Paddy Harte (FG); and Pat “the Cope” Gallagher (FF).
See Monday’s Donegal Democrat / Donegal People’s Press for more on Wednesday’s meeting.