Wheelchair access issues highlighted during MS Awareness Raising event in Donegal Town

Julie Costello

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Julie Costello

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editorial@donegaldemocrat.com

Wheelchair access issues highlighted during MS Awareness Raising event in Donegal Town

Highlighting the simple obstacles that can make life very difficult for an MS sufferer, Cllr. John Campbell along with Mayor Patricia Callaghan and members of Foróige. INDD 0106 MS 6 MVB

Donegal County Councillors were given the chance to experience for themselves how difficult it is to negotiate the footpaths of Donegal Town in a wheelchair during a well-attended MS Awareness Raising event held on Wednesday which was held this week as part of World MS Awareness Day.

The event, which was organised by the Donegal Town MS Support Group with support from Donegal Local Development CLG, featured information and support in the foyer of the Abbey Hotel for people affected by MS (multiple sclerosis).

Meanwhile, outside in the Diamond red-shirted young people from Foróige staffed a table of tools they had created which gave members of public the chance to experience MS symptoms for themselves. The blurry vision which is a symptom for some people with MS was simulated by putting on a pair of glasses with Vaseline smeared on the lenses, while difficulty moving was illustrated by wearing a boiler suit with heavy weights in the pockets.

“It’s to help people know what it feels like to have MS,” said Foróige member Niamh Histon.

 The difficulty involved in trying to negotiate a wheelchair along the footpaths of Donegal Town is an additional huge trial for people with MS, according to Donna McNulty of Barnesmore.

“There are very few places you can go with a wheelchair,” she said. “The Council says there are supposed to be ramps, but they’re beyond the strength of people in a wheelchair to negotiate by themselves. You end up just kind of restricted to being in one place.”

 Cllr. John Campbell (Independent) took to a wheelchair pushed by Foróige member Dylan Martin to see for himself the obstacles that wheelchair users experience along the town footpaths.

“Sure, even with the wee bit of a step there it's a hassle,” Cllr. Campbell said as Dylan struggled to push him up the lip of a drop ramp between the street and the footpath. Sandwich boards placed in the middle of footpaths and difficulty seeing past parked cars in order to safely cross the street were other issues Cllr. Campbell noticed.

     “Days like this will hopefully raise the awareness, even down to where businesses put their signage,” he said. “It’s not to say signage has to be banned, but people need to be more conscious. As councillors we’ve been pushing for an increase in the money we have for footpaths, and recently agreed that there will be a sum of €1 million per year to be spent over the next three years to tackle damaged footpaths. These problems might seem trivial to some, but they really aren’t trivial when you’re trying to negotiate in a wheelchair. What I noticed is that even a lip of less than half an inch can be a hassle in the wheelchair. I had Dylan pushing me, so it would be all the harder if you were on your own in the wheelchair.”