26th June 2017 geri

Social Isolation

Disability comes with its own unique trials, but for me as a very social and outgoing individual, social isolation is one of the hardest challenges to accept. In my experience of transitioning from an able bodied world to a world tacked on haphazardly for a person with paralysis, segregation is commonplace and sadly an accepted part in public spaces and beyond.

To be included in society is a full-time job in itself. Work environments often contain hostile and hard-to-navigate spaces with disability not being an inclusive part of the design process. Spaces do not flow and heavy, fireproof doors are not welcoming to all bodies. Work events and co-workers are a main source of social interaction that sadly is not relevant to a large proportion of disabled living. With reduced incomes this makes social events costly and as a result a luxury rather than a necessity; A vicious cycle.

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 illegal 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. In order to live “independently’ since acquiring my disability I have to live in a congregated setting for three years due to poor housing services available; without free choice to integrate adequately in to a new community and 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?!! The irony is painful!

Many disabled people find it hard to do things at short notice choosing instead to opt out of social events

For those without the choice to drive due to a disability, there is a lack of resources to move within communities and beyond due to poor transportation options again furthering isolation. Often ramps are broken on town buses with intercity busses not providing wheelchair access. My first encounter with this situation was a year and a half after my accident when I arrived at the bus station in the early hours of the morning. It was to my horror that I discovered this accessibility issue that as an able bodied individual I had not been faced with before. If it had not been for the kindness of two random gentlemen who graciously carried me on and off the public transport, I would have remained stranded.

Social barriers (as described in my blog Inaccessibility) and subsequent elevated stress levels associated with outings, pain and resultant fatigue are other reasons why many disabled people find it hard to do things at short notice choosing instead opt out of social events and thus adding to their isolation further.












Comments (8)

  1. Maria

    Geri, your blog is inspirational.I read about you in Irish Times article. Keep up the good work writing and doing. I’m able bodied but take nothing for granted in this life . I take strength from your experience. Do you think starting a Meet upgroup would help get a social scene started for people e.g. able bodied doing the driving for disabled and everyone go to e.g. cinema once a week or wherever… just a suggestion . I’ll keep in touch via your blog . Heading away travelling myself in September but you are definitely one person I find very inspiring for people in general.
    All the very best .

  2. Vincent Costello

    As a commuting cyclist in Dublin, i applaud your bravery and determination. Thanks for raising these issues. Best of luck.

  3. Emily Madden

    Wow! Just read your article and blog as shared by a friend on facebook.

    You are an absolute inspiration. I will refer to your story and use it for future inspiration / kick up the arse! Go girl, you are incredible.

    I can see you doing TED talks.

    Best of luck in all your endeavours. x

  4. david

    Environmental obstacles, which are tolerated for most of us are, indeed, an unbearable fact responsible of segregation for citizen with mobility limitations.
    But I am even more interested to understand why people using a wheelchair, are disregarded by the rest of the people, and treated as a kind of immature (psichically and physically) beings.
    I have just descover your web, and I really find it useful and inspirational. And hopefully a tool to unswer some of these questions.
    I wish you all the best in your path to achieve an inclusive environment in all spheres of life (professional, personal, and affective)

    • geri

      Thank you for your comment and I’m glad you find the site useful, I’ll keep posting and hopefully you’ll keep reading!!!

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