What is the Yes Equality Campaign :
It is an equality campaign is a positive campaign for equality and human rights. It is looking for the rights of disabled people to be recognized by calling for support from the public in helping bring about much needed change here in Ireland. The members of the campaign want the government to immediately ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and to support a rights-based Yes. In doing so they feel provision for proper support will be made for a group of the most vulnerable members of Irish society in a country where those on the edge of existence are being punished for being alive; a State that actively discriminates on the basis of physical and intellectual needs disabling its people further.
Why was the Yes Equality Campaign established:
The Campaign was established as many felt that the Health system here in Ireland fails the disabled community at every turn and major improvements are required to make it fit for its purpose. Disability impacts every aspect of a person’s life and the government’s announcement of more cuts would represent another huge blow making life even more difficult for many people who already face huge barriers on a day-to-day basis in society. The disabled community needs support from the public in organising, protesting and lobbying for change because generally they are too busy managing their lives and facing battles of disablism everyday to fight politicians. Too often than not, a lack of accessibility and limited movement of disabled persons in public spaces is commonplace and accepted.
Why does the government target people who cannot mobilize and demand these rights themselves:
The simple and sad fact being this version of a nation of opportunity and equality only includes those who can fully participate in society by paying taxes. If people with disabilities are unable to do this without the support of the state they are viewed as almost second class citizens by those in power; the state counts them as a cost or a liability rather than an asset, their difference constructed as “deficit” employment.
How are the rights of disabled people being denied?
Like other areas of health, the disability sector is in deep crisis. In 2004, despite the Disability Act being ratified loop holes in legislation deny people their rights. Buried beneath the rhetoric of the act it states supports will be provided “within available finances” but services and supports for children and adults with disabilities have been decimated due to so-called austerity measures. In the last 13 years there has been an increase in waiting lists, an increase in paperwork, an increase in red tape, decreased staff, decreased resources and decreased funding. Since 2011, as a member of Cabinet, Minister for Health and now Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar has signed off on every cut to health services and supports for the disabled and careers. Removing support for people who need help to use the toilet or dress is an attack on dignity.
Thousands of children and young adults alike have little or no access to meaningful physiotherapy, occupational therapy or speech therapy. I myself, have had no physiotherapy provided by the state in the last three years. The occupational therapy services in Sligo town like others throughout the nation make heroic efforts to meet the growing demands placed upon them by chronic underfunding and catastrophic recruitment difficulties. Despite this they have no replacement o.t for myself and many others alike for the last six months plus. With several other staff members absent for various reasons and despite having a cervical neck injury and requiring regular occupational therapy input for many aspects of my daily life I must wait as “unfortunately there is a waiting list for services”. Decisions are based on assessments of individuals clinical needs and goals with non-transparencies as to who qualifies. With it even being suggested to me to travel almost four hours to Dun Laoighre to avail of o.t services there.
Many people both here in Sligo and throughout the country face huge delays in getting urgent equipment; when with the right equipment, promptly provided, you can be a normal, contributing member of society. If someone needs aids and appliances to carry out the most basic tasks that most people take for granted then they clearly need ongoing support to live independently, which is often expensive. I waited for more than one year for funding from the HSE to get a new, adequate chair due to the pain and discomfort I found myself in from my then chair. The funding was not provided as I was assessed by the HSE as “not in need” of a wheelchair as I was sitting in one at the time; it didn’t matter that it was uncomfortable causing me chronic neck strain or not remotely functionally just if I was sitting down or not. This resulted in my friends and family fundraising to buy me a suitable chair costing 6,000euro. It’s extremely difficult to find jobs these days but imagine doing your job search with a disability. With reduced incomes wheelchairs and vital equipment are as a result a luxury rather than a necessity; A vicious cycle.
Wheelchairs are not luxuries – they are essential for disabled people to move safely both in and out of the house, get to work and education, and to live their lives as independently as possible. The right wheelchair can help someone to stay healthy and well, while the wrong wheelchair can result in unnecessary discomfort and pain whilst creating isolation and suffering. The cost of not getting the right wheelchair is significant. It could keep a young person out of school or someone out of work. A pressure sore (from an ill-fitting wheelchair) costs tens of thousands to fix. It is especially important for children to get the wheelchair they need, particularly as they grow and their needs change. Families shouldn’t have to resort to charities or fundraising for such a basic right. The situation leaves thousands of families with five-figure bills for expensive but essential equipment.
1,222 adults with disabilities – under the age of 65 – are confined to nursing homes across the Irish State. To live independently since acquiring my disability I have had to live in a congregated setting, Cheshire Ireland, for almost three and a half years; leaving me without free choice to integrate adequately in to a new community due to poor housing services available. I live in a very small apartment in an institutional setting which comprises of a bathroom and just one other room which makes up my bedroom, kitchen and living area. These services, even though HIQA approved have unaccessible worktops, wardrobes, bathrooms, sinks, cupboards, etc requiring assistance from people to carry out every meaningless task throughout the day.
In June 2011, the HSE published the Report of the Working Group on Congregated Settings – This report envisaged a new model for residential support, deeming congregated settings as a thing of the past and stated people living in such settings will be moved “to dispersed housing in ordinary communities’. Despite the HSE setting out this agreed national policy six years ago, for people with disabilities to be supported “to live ordinary lives in ordinary places’, a shortage of accessible housing is common practice in this day and age even in a developed country such as Ireland leaving disabled people without free choice to engage fully with the myriad initiatives designed to lift people out of isolation and segregation. Hard to believe but the only two purpose built wheel chair accessible apartments in Sligo town were constructed on a fourth floor with an elevator that can break down at anytime!
What does the Yes Equality Campaign want?
The Yes Equality Campaign wants any long-term reforms made by the government to make the system fairer for disabled people, rather than pushing them closer to the edge. It wants the Irish society to stand behind people who are different by way of physical or intellectual needs and actively empower them. It is essential that the department ensures that no more cuts to the livelihoods of a vulnerable community is made.