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Accessibility within Ireland in the 21st century

category national | health / disability issues | opinion/analysis author Wednesday March 29, 2006 05:00author by John Aherne Report this post to the editors

To be able, or not to be able, that is the question

Can anyone tell me as to why it is so difficult to have a basic need catered to regarding accessibility in
Ireland? In this day and age you would think firstly that pure and utter logic would prevail, but with my expieriences, and with the so called "Celtic Tiger" we are years away from being a society that open doors.
Sorry, regulars only !
Sorry, regulars only !

Yeah I know, yet another wheelchair story about how hard done by the disabled are. Yes but this time with a twist and the odd flavour of madness.

Let me start by giving a synopsis as to the type of person who actually took time out to clear his mind of the everyday hypocrisy a wheelchair user has to deal with (note that I stated user and not bound, I am quiet attached to my chair when getting around but I tend to leave it outside the covers when I sleep).

I don’t mind in the least as to how I would be classed, it differs from generation to generation, and to an elderly person I would be classed as an invalid, personally I think myself to be a valid person but hey, those were the times so you had to roll with it. Today, people get too hung up on what they perceive themselves to be and what category they file into. I suppose some people feel they need to belong to a group whether they are disabled or not, but who among us doesn’t suffer from one form of a disability, be it obvious like mine or the able bodied male in his pin stripped suit who has been rendered impotent due to the pressures of work. Personally, I’d prefer my chair.

So let’s get back on track, I’m a 34 year old male, paraplegic, December ’92 was an eye opener for me, I found out that I actually owned a spinal cord. It didn’t seem very important at the time but I like many others found out that when that cord gets damaged, it can change a life in an instant. My first experience with the consultant in the rehab, I even learned as to the different levels on the spinal column as he briefly muttered you’re a T8 and walked away. When you’re in a position like that, you find it to be “a hard tablet to swallow” but I considered myself as lucky, with the amount of damage that was done, I was very lucky to be breathing, although still at this time it was with the aid of a machine, but I knew it wouldn’t be long before I tasted the sweet burning of my lungs as I inhaled my first cigarette through my newly inserted trachea. Some people never learn.

I always had strong will power but never acted upon it, so I thought it’s now or never. I am no different to many spinal injuries who took the bull by the horns, so I dusted myself off and got on with life, no self pity, no chip on my shoulder, no “why me?”. The way I look it is “why not me” it can happen to anyone in a heart beat, and it doesn’t discriminate between rich or poor, male or female, young or old. You just got to play the cards you were dealt and make the most of it. I am also of the view which some people find harsh is that some people with disabilities really irritate me, now of course if I was able to walk on shoe leather, to make a statement like that I would be classed as some form of a bigot, I on the other hand have seen it first hand as to how much whining someone can do purely because they think society in general should stand up and take notice. I got news for ye lads; society doesn’t give two fiddlers, so get your balls back and move on.

I’ve heard it all over the years, even from the mouth of an MEP who while on his visit to the rehab said and I quote “want anything done lads regarding any disability issue, then don’t come to me” so, you see whether you are in a chair or not, it doesn’t give you an automatic right to be a self righteous pain in the rectum. Yes people with disabilities have rights, as does anyone else in this god forsaken country. But what is the point in having all these rights. It reminds me of when I was given my free travel pass, what a load of good that was, I wasn’t able to get on a bus, to try and gain access to a train was like Bertie Ahern trying to get a sentence out without sticking both feet in his mouth.

Access, now this is a word that nobody seems to understand. As a wheelchair user this is an issue that grounds a lot of ideas as to how you might want to spend an evening out. I, a non drinker don’t frequent public houses very often, for two reasons, the first is that there is rarely an occasion when I would be able to gain access to the toilets, and I think the barman would be offended when I go to the counter and ask for an empty pint glass and then give it back to him full. The second reason is that I’m a magnet for the typical male who got up that morning and decided “today I’m going to the pub and I’m not leaving there till I’ve drank my weight in beer”. As he finds it quiet difficult to focus, he staggers his way towards me and feels the need to spend some time with me and tell me how marvellous I am because I can push myself, I am also subjected to his three second memory span, and then of course he decides to test the theory “push it and it moves”. One of the funniest regarding access I have came across is a pub on the Dublin road which actually has a ramp leading up to an eight inch step, try figure that one out.

I like to try and go places that I don’t get too much bother. So I decided to try the cinema, notice I said “try”. The Savoy in Limerick city, no access, fifteen or so steps up to the first floor, the omniplex in Dooradoyle was a god send, even if it was quiet a distance away, but at least if I wanted to see a movie there was a good chance it was to be viewed with comfort as not all of it’s screens where designed with logic. And then there was all the great hype of the newly built Storm cinema, and I thought to myself at the time “this is 2005, surely this will be done right” Yeah and then all the kings horses and all the kings men couldn’t put humpty dumpty together again. What a farce, I had plenty of access into the building and myself and my fiancé decided to watch the movie saw II, well that didn’t go to plan as the seating area for wheelchair users is approximately twelve to fifteen feet from a screen that must be one hundred feet wide by at least twenty feet high, now my question is, where on gods green earth is the logic in that? Not to mention the fact that being a six footer in a chair and towering over people beside me, I automatically become a nightmare for the person in the back row with his camcorder stuck between his legs. Have any of these developers got an IQ over seventy? Wouldn’t it be a logical step to take to have a wheelchair user taken onboard, purely as a consultant? People in suits designing buildings and giving their own interputation of access, isn’t the way to do it. Are they under the illusion that we are grateful for the day out and going to the cinema itself should be enough, sure didn’t he get out for the day anyway, isn’t he great, god bless him.

Now if you ever fancy a weekend away and decide to book a B&B, well enough said. Reason why is because there are no B&B’s that truly cater for people with disabilities, yes I know one has opened in Munster but that seems to have a seasonal opening and if someone doesn’t want to cater all year round then personally I’m not going to bother giving my custom, see I have just exercised one of my rights. So the majority of times I would use a Hotel, well easier said than done, some places when you ring up and book a room and state “I would like a room with wheelchair access and also for the en suite to be wheelchair friendly”. Done and dusted, hotel booked for the weekend, into the car and off we go. Arrive at the hotel, check in, toddle off up to the room, and I let curiosity get the better of me and take the leap forward to check out the en suite.

Then reality sets in, I’m away for the weekend, with absolutely no way of bathing properly, I’m facing a room that you could barely swing a cat in, a bath that’s not accessible and since I don’t bring a mirror with me, shaving becomes difficult as the mirror is a foot above my head. Come on people it’s not rocket science. One group of hotels I enjoy frequenting are the quality choice hotels, when you ask for a wheelchair accessible room, you get exactly what you need, but I do have one complaint regarding the en suite, although it is quiet spacious and actually even has a roll in shower which I was pleasantly surprised to see, there was one main ingredient missing “the shower chair”. How am I to shower? How am I to get from the bed to the shower? Use my wheelchair? It doesn’t take much for people who are in business which cater to the public to get advice in these matters, but we are the minority and that has been proven when you see the amount of rooms any given hotel out there has so called adapted for the disabled.

My least pleasant stay would have been in a hotel in Bandon, Co. Cork. That was a joke, wheelchair accessible room was upstairs, only thing was that the lift didn’t stop on that floor. So you had to go through the back yard, where all the crap was kept, then you had to wait to make sure a member of staff had the keys for the back door to gain access to the “wheelchair accessible” room, but that really didn’t matter as you could use the time well by warming up before you tackled the ramp leading up to the back door, and as you can see there is no point in going into more detail as to what this hotel catered for, but I did have the pleasure in filling out a comment card I was so graciously handed upon leaving, Personally I think there just isn’t enough room on them cards to really elaborate your true feelings.

Yes I know “able bodied have feelings too”. But the sooner this country gets with the times the better it will be for all of us.

author by Joannepublication date Sat Apr 08, 2006 22:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Hey john,

I jst wanted to say what a brilliant article!

I just feel so appalled at the simple things that could be changed or put in place for people wih disabilities but are not being done.

author by lpublication date Mon Apr 10, 2006 11:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

how bout stickers of that no wheelchair sign, which can be handily stuck where there's no access?

author by John Ahernepublication date Mon Apr 10, 2006 14:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Superb idea, and it would open a lot of people’s eyes but to be honest I don’t think it would make a blind bit of difference, unless it was done on a nationwide scale. But would you like to be in a position where you see these signs every two minutes? I know I wouldn’t.

When you think of it, come election time, polititions like Bertie and our poster child minister for health post their pictures all over the place and people still vote them in so the logical assumption can be made that people just ignore the signs that surround them.

author by alchemillapublication date Mon Apr 10, 2006 17:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

thanks for the article, as a sometime wheelchair user (i have ME/CFS, which sometimes means I can't walk very far, or at all), the only way I seem to be able to handle situations like you've found yourself in is by seeing how ludicrous they are. I was travelling in London last year, with my chair, on the Docklands light railway, which has been built to be totally accessible. Fantastic I thought! and mostly it was great, until I came to the automatic ticket machine, with the fancy touch screen. Like alot of liquid crystal screens, you needed to be a certain height to actually read it! everything else was accessible, no steps, great lifts, even buttons that I could press, but i couldn't read the damn thing!
well, it made me laugh... and then i got on the train without purchasing a ticket (well i couldn't could i, think that would stand up in a court of law), so i got a free ride too.
it really wasn't until i spent any time in a wheelchair that i really appreciated how many barriers there are to accessing everyday life, i think everyone designing buildings and public space should spend at least a couple of days in one, it would really open their minds.

author by M Cotton - Disability Election Pledge Alliancepublication date Mon Apr 10, 2006 18:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

'Yes people with disabilities have rights, as does anyone else in this god forsaken country. But what is the point in having all these rights. '

Not sure exactly what you meant by this but actually, people with disability dont have rights not least because of the awful Disability Act 2005. It is the absence of enforceable, legislated rights that is at the root of the difficulties you describe. That's why people go on designing buildings that exclude wheelchair users. That's why nobody is accountable for the fact that they do. And there are a million other examples of obstacles to living a full life which would be eliminated if there was rights-based accountability. I dont want to hijack this thread but anyone reading this article needs to be aware of the Disability Election Pledge Alliance, a countrywide alliance of voluntary groups dedicated to establishing enforceable rights for people with disability. (There is a link to another article announcing the DEPA campaign above.) If you want to make a difference, please support this campaign.

Also, the person in munster who runs the wheelchair accessible B&B is herself quadraplegic and is really only in a position to open the B&B in the summer months. It's not at all a question of not bothering to open it so do use it if you want a hassle free break. Ive seen it and it is very good.

author by John Ahernepublication date Mon Apr 10, 2006 22:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

'Yes people with disabilities have rights, as does anyone else in this god forsaken country. But what is the point in having all these rights. '

Prior to reading a few of your articles I was under the illusion that people with disabilities had rights, well now I’m not too sure. I only gave highlights as to what obstacles are out there and didn’t elaborate, nor did I nit pick as to what constitutes as catering for the disabled. Fourteen years in the chair and the only real difference that I have noticed in catering for the disabled are the dips done in the footpaths and the odd ramp thrown in for good measure. And yes in a perfect world if all obstacles were removed, life would be a hell of a lot easier. The way I look at things, Christopher Reeves was in a chair and spent every waking minute trying to get out of it, surrounded by “yes” men, where as with me I just get on with it and make the most of what’s there rather than me banging my head against a brick wall and still get shafted.

I am not familiar with the DEPA, but curiosity is getting the better of me so I will look into it. I have also got my hands on a copy of the Disability Act 2005 which no doubt tell me how much of a valid person I really am. Regarding the B&B in Munster, I have seen the website and I remember saying to myself that the person had to be a spinal injury, purely down to the thought that was put into it. So it’s time to swallow my pride and probably give it a lash as I didn’t know as to the level of injury the owner had.

Kind regards

author by an able bodied personpublication date Tue Apr 11, 2006 15:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

my experience is that ireland is not doing too badly , many many places are accesible. Having travelled extensively through europe and the states, we are streets ahead of our european brethren. We are however very much behind the u.s.. In their case they voluntarily created legions of disabled people through their military forays. So go figure.

Sadly disability access is still just that , an issue with a title. And that's a pity.

author by John Ahernepublication date Tue Apr 11, 2006 17:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

To a degree Ireland isn’t doing too badly. But there is no point in having all that money in government when there isn't the intelligence there to spend it wisely. Sit in a chair for a few days and come back to me and tell me what your views are then regarding “places that are accessible”. I don’t live anywhere else in the world nor do I want to. So to be honest it’s irrelevant as to how much access is catered to in the U.S.

Also you might like to pay attention to the heading on the piece” Accessibility within Ireland in the 21st century“

An issue without a title wouldn’t be much of an issue !

All the same, many thanks for taking time out to skim through the article.

author by Seán Ryanpublication date Fri Apr 21, 2006 23:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Then again maybe not.

No political accessibility either.

author by Keith Martin- Councillorpublication date Sat Apr 22, 2006 00:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks for the link Sean,

I am trying to highlight the fact that in Westport, consulation is very low on the agenda when it comes to this issue but the more attention it gets the more likely positive action is.

Related Link:
author by John Ahernepublication date Sat Apr 22, 2006 02:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Link to the Disability act in pdf format

Related Link:
author by Seán Ryanpublication date Sun May 07, 2006 16:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It seems that the issues highlighted by John on Indy are finally sinking into the mainstream media.

If one doesn't have a password and username check out: (Many thanks to Redjade)

If you use mozilla or firefox you can get a little addon to input passwords and usenames automatically:

author by Sarahkaypublication date Fri May 12, 2006 11:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm an able bodied student who had absolutely NO idea of the barriers faced every day by people with an impairment. On doing the tiniest bit of research for a college paper I
ve just been astounded as to the lack of serious social provision. I found your article really interesting and will definitely be more aware of the difficulties imposed by society. It must be so incredibly frustrating to be told over and over that buildings will be accesible etc etc to find that NO thought has gone into the practicalities of such a task. It seems to put across the message that a these social provisions are just a gesture of goodwill instead of a necessity for equality.
My eyes have been opened.....

author by John Ahernepublication date Tue May 16, 2006 13:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Hi Sarah

Glad I opened someone’s eyes; I think we are a long way from change though, purely down to two reasons.

1. Our government (I don’t think there is any need to elaborate further)

2. The financial side of it.

If you have been checking out the links on some of the comments above you will notice certain politicians when cornered just don’t give two fiddlers and end up showing their true colours (much like Bertie’s canary blazer)

If I can be of any help with your paper, please don’t hesitate to ask.


author by Walking Tallpublication date Tue May 16, 2006 15:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I like the idea of printing up stickers of that no wheelchairs sign which would shame those who do not provide wheelchair access...

here's one for now... but I'll get a better version done myself and upload it here.

author by johnpublication date Sun Oct 01, 2006 19:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Under the Equal Status Act 2000/2004 service providers are obliged to make reasonable for disabled,check out and see q7

author by John Ahernepublication date Sun Oct 29, 2006 18:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

What are the provisions for the Reasonable Accommodation of people with disabilities?
“A person selling goods or providing services, a person selling or letting accommodation or providing accommodation, educational institutions and clubs must do all that is reasonable to accommodate the needs of a person with a disability. This involves providing special treatment or facilities in circumstances where without these, it would be impossible or unduly difficult to avail of the goods, services, accommodation etc.”
“However, they are not obliged to provide special facilities or treatment when this costs more than what is called a nominal cost. What amounts to nominal cost will depend on the circumstances such as the size and resources of the body involved. If the State provides grants or aids for assisting in providing special treatment or facilities, there may be an onus on the service providers etc. to avail of these grants”

There are two comments I would like to make.
The first been the most important and the second purely because I have two seconds to spare
1. Absolute BOLIX
2. Government grant = Gesture.
Contractors who design wheelchair accessible buildings = IQ of 15

author by Patpublication date Fri Dec 15, 2006 23:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Would the author of this article please contact me for a paper I am doing. I am very interested in what you have written.

My e-mail address is



author by Jack Lpublication date Mon Mar 12, 2007 20:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Great Article
by M Cotton - Disability Election Pledge Alliance Mon Apr 10, 2006 17:23

Way to go woman!!!!

This bloke goes away and writes a superb article and you go away and stick your oar in to mention the group your in to draw attention to you.

Shameful, absaloutely shameful.

To John,

Fair play,well written and I would love to read anything else you have written

author by Teresa shallow - ????publication date Sun Nov 25, 2007 16:30author email t_shallow at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Wow that was a very good artical that you have wrote.
It would be great if our government took notice off all the needs of the disabled person persons but hell will freeze over before they do.
Ow yes they say they do but as in your story it clearly states the people are still very ignorant to the needs of the disabled,

Teresa x x

author by Michelle Clarke - Social Justice and Ethicspublication date Mon Sep 29, 2008 17:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Teresa Shallow

I just came across your posting and am unsure if you were being sarcastic about the Government and their lack of heed.

Awareness and perspectives with me are a little amiss but I do know that I have visited the NDA and collected lots of brochures regarding disability. There was one in particular about Accessibility and for some reason, the intrellectually weak comprehensive part of me became overly converned about why such a publication did not mention Companion dogs.

As always happens with my letters, nobody gave me the simple answer......that dogs are not covered by the Accessibility Report.

Now again, I ask why.....several years later are dogs so excluded in Ireland. We face recession, Government are alreaddy targetting medical cards and the elderly - what else will be targetted.

I wrote about Accessibility several times but to no avail. Eventually I copped on......people drafting the reports were totally unaware of dogs and their abilities to assist humans.

To mention a few of the abilities

Agoraphobia: Fear of going out. Needs no further explanation. Yet pubs, restaurants and coffee shops pay no regard these very real psychological problems

Autism: There has been a move forward here and thankfully for children. Dogs enhance the social impaired skills and when the dogs work successfully with children, they can make some as simple as walking through a supermarket, without fear a real possibility.

Watch a 'Seeing Dog' operate. They direct a person, give friendship, advertise the cause to ensure a many people with sight get assistance. Dogs make people interact - I have learned this since Jack entered my life. I walk Jack in Herbert Park and Baggot Street and we sit together alongside Patrick Kavanagh at the Canal - we have met young and old, dogs and owners, dogs lost and made many friends. I thank Jack for that. Thanks to Jack we have found another home for JJ, a Jack Russell that a road worker had taken after his elderly owner died. This Jack Russell is now the delight of a family from Baggot Street.

Think about dogs in the homes of those with neurological problems. They act as the watch dog, they fetch the phone, the fill the washing machines.

Then look to the Scientific magazine articles and note the increasingly confidence in the fact that dogs diagnose cancer and other problems.

Dogs have massive potential to create a safer environment. Yes, their scent skills are remarkable and their work seeking out illegal drugs on our beaches, at our airports - look to the potential. Apparently someone in Longford has established a wacky concept. He takes trained dogs to party, pub locations on a pre-arranged basis with the host, with the aim of seeking out illegal substances. There is huge scope here......Give the dogs accessibility to open spaces, and they will ensure that illegal drugs will be curbed and destroyed while people can expect better health and hopefully an avoidance of disability.

Lastly, there is stress and anxiety. Given the financial crisis and the now announced Recession, let us consider wholeheartedly the benefits of animals to alleviate stress. The walking is good and the chat stops social alienation. Keep abreast of the websites : Gumtree - daily list of animals available. DSPA; Dog Trust Ireland; Peata.

Michelle Clarke

St. Francis
'Go and do not worry
Do not say that something is impossible'

Related Link:
author by Michelle Clarke - Social Justice and Ethicspublication date Thu Mar 19, 2009 04:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Excellent article and it makes one think for a while about Difference and our expectations.

My education was gaining access to the disabilities room in Trinity College and the introduction to people who were paraplegic, cerebral palsy, blind, and TBI and damage to certain areas of the brain.

All academically excelled apart from a few like me.......I surrendered a folder of work to the Dean with relevant essays. There it ends I am one essay off the BESS degree but Trinity thought me how to cope with acquired illness and find any niche of a talent and not be afraid to share it.



author by Michelle Clarke - Social Justice and Equitypublication date Sat Mar 21, 2009 12:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This would be pure tragedy.

Carers are vital to people who need them and must prove to be a much cheaper alternative to the upkeep of hospitals and care homes. For a start it keeps the person interactive.

Just look to the success in the last 10 years, when the Universities of Ireland opened up to people with disabilities.......They gave them a jump start in learning to cope with a different society.

Recall the Special Olympics!!!!

Look at the impact horse riding has for some disabled children

Think of dogs and how they assist the blind and autistic children (an autistic child able to enter the supermarket with the dog, whereas this was never the case before).

Adopted dogs, Paws, dogs to mind the elderly, dogs to sniff out drugs.......This is all about Accessibility to Society.

If you get a chance visit the National Disability Association in Dublin 4. There are plenty of research reports and a library.

Think of the Ramps and allocation of space on Busses.....% anyway

Think of lifts in the big stores

Think of the impact of computerisation and real mobility of labour.......


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