Irish Wheelchair Association AGM and Conference 2016
Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA), one of Ireland’s leading representative organisations and service providers, supporting over 20,000 people with disabilities and their families nationwide, addressed the issues, impact and long term implications of Ireland’s housing crisis at its national conference which took place on Saturday, 14th May 2016 in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Santry, co. Dublin.
People with disabilities have very specific housing and accommodation requirements and often find it difficult to gain access to their preferred living situation. IWA represents the specific housing interests of people with disabilities through a range of initiatives which include direct provision of accessible and affordable housing, information and advice, research, lobbying and advocacy.
Joining the Association to explore the civic, social, health and financial barriers which poor planning and design presents to people with disabilities who wish to live independently in their own communities, were keynote speaker Fr. Peter McVerry, guest speaker Claire Feeney of the Housing agency and Finian McGrath T.D, Minister with Special Responsibility for Disability, representatives from local authorities and the Department of the Environment, housing associations and significantly, people with disabilities who are currently registered on social housing lists with local authorities throughout Ireland.
Speaking at the conference IWA’s newly appointed CEO, Rosemary Keogh explained:
Living independently should mean having the freedom of choice and control to follow your dreams, whatever they may be, and to achieve your personal goals in education, employment and social integration. People with disabilities have always faced challenges in living independently and one of the greatest barriers to independent living is finding suitable accommodation.
Housing stock has been depleted, fewer accessible houses are being built, and supply is now a very serious issue. IWA’s conference this afternoon explored what opportunities have been, and will be developed by government to respond to this crisis situation.
The recent Government formation may give some cause for optimism with the creation of new Cabinet posts for Housing and for Disability Issues. It is our job in the Irish Wheelchair Association to hold our Government accountable for these commitments. We will continue to do this at a national level by lobbying the relevant Government Departments and Agencies and we encourage all of our members to ensure these issues are priorities for their local representatives.
A key part of the conference was to inform and educate social housing providers about the long term benefits of forward planning when designing and developing homes and communities, and to ensure people with disabilities and their specific housing requirements are central to the development of new housing policies and plans.
Finian McGrath, Minister with Special Responsibility for Disabilities also addressed the conference stating:
The Irish Wheelchair Association has been a widely recognised advocate for people with disabilities going back over 50 years, since the establishment of the organisation. This year’s National Conference, with its focus on housing issues for people with disabilities, is bringing greater awareness of the specific housing difficulties faced by people with disabilities, as they try to live independently.
The Programme for Government has committed to ensuring that the needs of people with disabilities are incorporated into all future housing policies. The Programme for Government also recognises that service supports can empower people with disabilities to live independent lives and provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose.
While I have specific responsibility for disability as it relates to the Departments of Social Protection, Justice & Equality and Health, I look forward to working with the many stakeholders across all Government Departments to progress issues of concern to people with disabilites.