The Disability Federation of Ireland and Offaly Disability Equality Network host Make Way Day in Offaly to highlight ongoing accessibility issues for people with disabilities in public and commercial spaces. Pressing issues are increasingly a daily problem, with sandwich boards, car parking and even dog fouling common offenders.
The main purpose of this event being to highlight these issues to local businesses and citizens in order to hold them to account when necessary and in a positive way to seek practical, innovative solutions that deliver amicable outcomes.
Last Thursday (26th September) a large group congregated at the Darmagh Centre,
Tullamore, to conduct such a partial audit of the county town and to see if there
were any improvements since last year. Five routes, specially selected, were
thoroughly surveyed by groups of eager volunteers lead by their designated leaders.
The atmosphere was very positive from the outset with many representatives from
diverse sections of the local community and statutory agencies, including nursing
students from the Laois /Offaly Education Training Board (LOETB), Offaly County
Council and the Tullamore Chamber of Commerce.
Before embarking on the 2nd Make Way Day in Tullamore Siobhan Broderick, SICAP
Lead of Offaly Local Development Company and the driver of the Offaly
Disability Equality Network, spoke to all those assembled. She revealed a startling
statistic, “out of the 77,000 people that live in Offaly, 11,000 have a disability” and
said of ODEN, “I think we’ve done great work in the 18 months of us being together
and we’ve taken small steps to make life better for everybody that has a disability,
whether it’s here in Tullamore or across the County of Offaly”.
Jimmy Dooner, ODEN Chairman, then was introduced and said, “Offaly Disability
Equality Network believes that everyone should be treated equally. We focus on
people’s abilities rather than their disabilities. We look at the barriers facing people
with disabilities and provide a forum to explore and discuss what works and what’s
not working within our local community. It’s a safe place for people with disabilities
and organisations to work together to better our knowledge and understanding of
disabilities, awareness and to bring about positive changes to make our
communities more inclusive”.
Anne O’ Connor, nursing tutor with LOETB said, “as a healthcare teacher it’s
extremely important that all students of healthcare and anybody is a healthcare
professional in the future is aware of all the issues that face anybody that has a
disability, especially out and about in our own local area too. We are all about
accommodating diversity and supporting people that have those extra needs so our
healthcare students, healthcare support workers and future nurses, we need to know
this, learn this and act it out in our daily lives”.
On the Make Way Day volunteers return to base the findings from two other Offaly
towns, Clara and Banagher, with a draft version of Tullamore’s on the day, were
presented to Anna Marie Delaney, CEO of Offaly County Council. She said, “Offaly
County Council are delighted to support Make Way Day and at our last council
meeting the councilors were specifically asking us to particularly support this
initiative and we are delighted to do that. From our point of view we want to thank
Brendan O’ Loughlin for the funding coming from the Offaly Local Development
Company and raising awareness about this particular issue. I want to acknowledge
the Offaly Disability Equality Network for planning the routes and walking the
routes identifying issues for people around accessibility, whether that’s footpaths,
bridges, pedestrian crossings or whatever it is. While Offaly County Council has a
standard that we operate to, we think we’re perfect but we are not always perfect.
It’s certainly important that our area staff, our technical staff, support this and we
have certainly made them aware of the various issues and problems that are
encountered that you have surveyed so far. She continued “I want to thank
everybody here for the diligence and their interest on trying to solve some of these
problems”. She concluding by that the Tullamore roadworks when completed, “will
improve some of the accessibility issues around the town and it should certainly do
that. We would have taken on some of the comments from last year and
incorporated them into our roadworks programme. We take ownership of the
reports from yourselves and will report back to you with Make Way Day on an annual
basis and thanks to everybody for that”.
Finally for those interested in further reading: Siobhan Broderick (OLDC and ODEN)
made everybody aware of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
and informed all that everything done on Make Way Day is enshrined in these rights.