The Government can find €3 billion to connect people virtually, but it won’t connect them physically to their communities, says Irish Wheelchair Association at pre-budget submission 2020 launch

Wheelchair users must give 24 hours-notice to travel on trains and are left waiting hours to board buses
5,095 people with disabilities need social housing – People are waiting up to ten years for wheelchair accessible accommodation

Irish Wheelchair Association has criticised the Government for prioritising connecting people virtually over connecting them physically to their communities, as it launched its pre-budget submission in Leinster House today.

The organisation’s pre-budget submission is calling on the Government to act urgently on the provision of transport, social housing and personal assistance services for people with physical disabilities and wheelchair users, amid chronic funding shortfalls.

Joan Carthy, Advocacy Officer with Irish Wheelchair Association said:

The Government has been able to find €3 billion to fund a national broadband plan to connect people virtually, yet it still will not connect people with disabilities physically to their communities for a fraction of the cost.

According to figures provided from research by Deputy Tommy Broughan TD, it would take the equivalent of 4% of the broadband budget to make public service buses and trains wheelchair accessible.

When it comes to holding down a job, socialising or even travelling to the nearest urban centre, people with physical disabilities are being left stranded time and time again. They are confined to their homes and treated like second class citizens as they cannot equally access public transport or taxis. The Government has the means to fix this, but so far it has been lacking the will.

This month the Government published the first annual review of Project Ireland 2040. Yet nowhere in this report is disability mentioned. A fairer, more equitable society cannot be realised if people with physical disabilities are being left behind.

Currently wheelchair users have to give 24-hours’ notice to travel on Irish Rail and there is a severe lack of availability of accessible taxis that cater for varying chair types.

Six years ago the Government withdrew the Motorised Transport Grant and the Mobility Allowance, which helped cover the cost of travel and purchasing adapted vehicles, with the promise it would be replaced with a new scheme. People with disabilities are still waiting. We’re calling on the Government to reinstate this allowance.

Irish Wheelchair Association’s pre-budget submission was launched by Niamh Ní Ruari (25) a young mother of one from Dublin, who is living with an extremely rare form of cancer called central nervous system neurological langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH) and has used a wheelchair since she was 18 years old.

She said:

I have been refused coming home from my hospital appointments at the stop outside Beaumont Hospital. The bus only comes once an hour, so I could be waiting two hours for a bus. I have been refused because one wheelchair user might be on the bus already, or a pram that isn’t folded up.

Irish Wheelchair Association has highlighted the need for social housing for people with disabilities in its submission.

Some wheelchair users wait up to ten years for suitable accommodation,

said Joan Carthy.

According to the Summary of Social Housing Assessments 2018 there are 5,095 people with disabilities waiting for social housing and in the 2016 Triennial Housing Needs Assessment, people with disabilities were the single largest group in need of housing. We are calling for 7% of social housing units to be wheelchair accessible to agreed best practice design standards in line with Irish Wheelchair Association access guidelines.

The organisation has also called for more funding for personal assistant services. This service, which is carried out by skilled workers, is the arms and legs for people with physical disabilities, carrying out tasks that they struggle to do themselves. It is chronically underfunded and efforts have not been made to quantify the unmet need for this service.

The lack of personal assistance hours funded is denying many people the support they need, leaving them isolated from their communities and relying on family members,” said Joan Carthy. “We want the Government to commit to research with the Central Statistics Office to measure the unmet need for the personal assistance service and to commit funding that enables people to live independent lives as they choose.

To read Irish Wheelchair Association’s Pre-Budget 2020 Submission visit:

Click here to read the Pre-Budget Submission

For media queries contact:

Meabh Smith
Irish Wheelchair Association – Head of Communications
087 246 3568

Megan Fitzsimons
Irish Wheelchair Association – Communications Coordinator
085 803 5278

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