Irish Wheelchair Association was set up sixty years ago in 1960 when a group of Paralympians took the visionary move to establish an organisation and services that cater for people with physical disabilities.
In the 1960s, services for people with a physical disability were meagre, sporadic or in some cases non-existent.
There was no legislation. Public attitudes of charity or silence prevailed. Near-total inaccessibility of buildings, public services and facilities was the norm.
From this beginning, Irish Wheelchair Association began to address the needs and injustices facing people with physical disabilities. Its services were driven by the needs of members.
A ‘social model’ of service delivery was adopted and services were community-based. The central goal was the participation of people with disabilities in their communities and recognition of their rights in society.
Volunteers joined the movement and selflessly dedicated massive amounts of time to building our services and reaching as many people as possible.
By the 1970s, Irish Wheelchair Association had over 1,000 members and had initiated services that included: occupational therapy, accessible holidays, transport, wheelchair sales, repair and loans, social activities and a driving school.
Areas such as access, education, housing, training and employment and residential care had been identified as requiring services. The 1980s and 1990s saw the development of day resource centres, independent living apartments and an assisted living service.
Today, Irish Wheelchair Association is a major service provider with 57 community centres, 45 social houses, 119 buses, a respected para-sports programme and an extensive network of over 1,000 personal assistants.
We are an effective lobbyist of government and decision-makers and a strong advocate for the rights of people with a disability across transport, housing and personal assistance.
With over 20,000 members, Irish Wheelchair Association’s services and voice continues to grow. Irish Wheelchair Association’s members have repeatedly shown their power as active citizens, who are fully engaged in standing up for the rights of people with disabilities and speaking out against inequality.
Irish Wheelchair Association is well placed to encourage and mobilise networks of likeminded individuals and organisations to challenge the structures that present barriers for people with disabilities, demand a more inclusive and just response to their rights, and to promote the importance of building a better future that promotes universal accessibility and inclusion for all abilities at its core.
Our work is based on the belief that everyone, whatever their physical ability, has a right to live in a society that enables them to reach their potential.