I receive help from the government to get assistance in household tasks and receive financial support because being disabled brings a lot of extra costs. For this I feel lucky as many countries around the world do not provide any support to their citizens living with disabilities. There is always a staff member in the building where I live. When each day is finished I’ll call her and she’ll help me to bed every night. For this I am lucky.
I think about people currently living in warzones. There are millions of people crossing borders every day, taking risks to move to other countries to survive and be safe. I have a roof over my head and a warm bed in my bedsit. For this I am lucky.
In the past, people with special needs and disabilities were segregated or housed in institutions. They did not attend mainstream schools but were attended to separately by professionals who looked after their needs and education. Little or no contact was made between these children and children or peers in their community; special needs and mainstream education were viewed and treated separately over all areas. As a result of this isolation it was believed that people with different intelletual and physical abilities had different educational needs, held little or no qualifications and were more socially isolated.In more recent times children and young people with disabilities are being included in mainstream schooling although a lot of work has still yet to be developed to ensure effective ways of ensuring full participation.
Sometimes I stop and think about alot of things pertaining to my disability. Would I have achieved the same level of education; my masters in neuroscience if I had had a physical disability all my life in Ireland? Perhaps I would not have had the same friends for the simple reason I may not have educated with them? For both of these things I am lucky.
In 1973 Ireland became a member of the European Community; a lot of changes were taking place around Europe, the education rights of children with disabilities were being more closely researched and enforced into law. At this time the Department of Education proposed that children with mild disabilities were to be accommodated in mainstream schools in special classes. During the 1980’s the idea of special needs children attending mainstream schools was lobbied worldwide. By 1989 the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child further declared that children with disabilities had the right to be educated through high quality education suiting their individual needs and by the early 1990’s approximately 2,000 children with special needs were integrated into mainstream schools.
A survey carried out by The National Disability Authority (2002) showed that as a nation we had very little or no knowledge about disability, similar to international studies attributing this to very little contact with such.
It has been shown that significant changes in special education is resulting in major positive effects on our attitudes and the education system, Griffin and Shevlin (2011).
The development of international and national policies and laws gives guidelines and support to develop ‘best practice’ in providing inclusive environments and processes. While this has certainly aided the educational side of things, I still feel much inroad needs to be made with regards housing for those with disabilities. There are young people with my level of disability living in nursing homes and in instituitions across Ireland. More needs to be done about the institutionalized housing of people with intellectual, physical and mental health issues together. I feel angry and disappointed to say the least that our government segregates and groups all forms of disabilities ranging from intellectual, mental to physical in a single unit and calls them adequately housed.
In my own personal experience, the guards have had to be called several times following months of harassment by another service user in same building as myself. He is suffering from addiction issues. On more than one occasion he has let himself into my home uninvited while I was in bed and frequently badgers me for money. I just started screaming at him to get out and eventually he left. Another situation occurred when my family was visiting including my six-year-old nephew and three-year-old niece. But I don’t think you have to be a rocket scientist to see the immediate dangers of grouping people just because they have a disability of some form in assisted living environments.I am still waiting for an alarm system in my room to be installed. About a year ago an alarm system was installed in the building when the building was burgled twice in the same night; with the thief robbing laptops and phones etc from the very rooms where we slept! But I was not harmed on any occassion, for this I feel lucky.
I would have a lot of concern that there are so many organisations and institutions working on behalf of people with disability. Yet they are not the voices I hear advocating on behalf of of people with disabilities for the basic needs to be met. I have a voice, for this I feel lucky.