Disability services remain an issue

Trinity College has records of two complaints made in relation to disability access during 2017 while other colleges and Dublin County Council said they had no records of any complaints made.

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2014, records with “information pertaining to the amount of complaints (including the nature of the complaint) about disability access across the city/campus for the years of 2017 to present,” were requested from Trinity College Dublin, DCU, UCD, Dublin Institute of Technology, IT Tallaght and Dublin County Council (DCC).

However, only Trinity held any records of complaints in relation to the FOI request. The rest invoked section 15 (1) of the FOI act: “The record concerned does not exist or cannot be found after all reasonable steps to ascertain its whereabouts have been taken.”

Wheelchair users experience trouble across Dublin where some buildings are listed, and therefore have not been modernised to include a ramp or elevator.

“That’s the excuse I’ve been given before, oh we can’t make it accessible because it’s a listed building in terms of making it accessible by lift or anything like that,” said James Cawley, a wheelchair user and the policy officer at the Independent Living Movement Ireland.

2017 saw the launch of the National Disability Strategy Inclusion Plan where the government will focus on:

  • Equality and Choice 
  • Joined up policies and public services 
  • Education 
  • Employment 
  • Health and Well-being 
  • Person centred disability services 
  • Living in the Community; and 
  • Transport and access 

In a recent report, published by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) it was found that people with disability face the most amount of discrimination and inequality in terms of housing.

Some of the findings show that people with a disability can experience higher housing and environmental deprivation and are more likely to live in over-crowded conditions. They are also more than twice as likely to report discrimination in relation to access to housing and more likely to live in an area with environmental problems.

#HackAccessDublin was set up in partnership with Google to try and raise awareness of disability access problems across the city of Dublin and to help modernise buildings that are difficult to access.

The initiative sees professionals from the communities of service design, engineering, technology and design working alongside professionals from disability community organisations like the National Disability Authority and The Rehab Group to try and come up with modern and effective solutions.

TheCity.ie also revealed this year that elevators at Luas stops were out of use for the equivalent of 82 days over the past two years, leaving wheelchair users and others with disabilities unable to easily access the stops. Dundrum has been out of use for the combined time of 1,966 hours since 2016.

When making a complaint about disability access, the Ombudsman is the best place to start, making sure to refer to the Disability Act 2005.

“What I’ve found is that when I went to do it in the right form, through emails, where there is a paper trail,” Mr Cawley said.

He recently had an incident at a hotel where he was soaked through trying to reach the hand drier that was placed above the hand basin. According to Mr Cawley, after he emailed, complaining, they offered him a complimentary night’s stay and changed the layout of the bathroom.  

However, Mr Cawley said this level of attention isn’t the normal response to complaints.

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