ILMI contacts Ministers and Departments about obligations to consult with DPOs

As agreed at the last AGM, ILMI has informed all new Ministers and Department heads that they needed to prioritise consultation with Disabled Person’s Organisations (DPOs). ILMI wanted to use this opportunity with a new Government and new departments that as per the UNCRPD statutory bodies need to speak directly to DPOs as opposed to Disability Service Providers. This message will also be communicated to all Public Sector Organisations. 

ILMI also communicated this to all large disability service providers and their representative organisation to inform them of the key role of DPOs and that service providers do not have a mandate to speak on behalf of disabled people. 

This is the text of the letter that each incoming Minister received two weeks ago: 

Dear Minister 
I am contacting you on behalf of Independent Living Movement Ireland (ILMI) to congratulate you on your appointment. We are a campaigning, national representative Disabled Person’s Organisation (DPO) that promotes the philosophy of independent living and aims to build an inclusive society. A fundamental part of our work is to ensure that policy decisions which impact on the lives of disabled people, are directly informed by the people whose lives are directly affected by those decisions. We are contacting you in your Ministerial role to welcome you to your role and establish a relationship with you and your officials to build an Ireland where disabled persons have freedom, choice and control over all aspects of their lives and can fully participate in an inclusive society as equals. 

Our philosophy can be summed up as: ‘Nothing about us without us!’ and ‘Rights Not Charity’. Our vision is an Ireland where disabled persons have freedom, choice and control over all aspects of their lives and can fully participate in an inclusive society as equals.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated once again the need for disabled people’s voices to be heard in the development of policy. Once again during the initial discussions, it often seemed that disabled people were an afterthought, with key messages relating to our lives absent from messaging around statutory responses and public health announcements. The essential health and safety information released to the public was not universally accessible, for example there was significant absence of plain English or easy read text, helplines were slow to provide alternatives to telephone services, and a lack of closed captioning of videos.  Often discussions were held with service providers in lieu of talking directly to Disabled Persons’ Organisations (DPOs).  

ILMI wants to clarify that as per the UNCRPD statutory bodies need to speak directly to DPOs as opposed to Disability Service Providers. Service providers and their representative organisations should no longer allow themselves to be perceived as sole authorities on how, where, and with what degree of supports disabled people are allocated in order to live inclusive lives, in an accommodating environment and supporting society.   

While work and services provided by these organisations continues to be important and is valued by disabled people, these bodies must discontinue allowing themselves to be perceived as exclusive authorities on matters on which disabled people should be consulted instead of through representative DPOs. The philosophy of Independent Living espouses that disabled people are the experts on their own lives, and as such, have intimate knowledge and vast expertise on their own needs. Therefore, they must be actively involved and engaged in all decision-making processes at all levels of those organisations purporting to represent the interests and the views of disabled people. 

ILMI has communicated our views on this matter to the relevant disability service organisations which to date have occupied that consultative space which must be released or expanded to include DPOs. 

ILMI is communicating with all public bodies, local authorities and to those parts of the private sector which must be transformed to make their employments, services, transport, public places and buildings more inclusive for all disabled people who have been negatively impacted by past failures of these bodies to accommodate for diversity. Disabled people must be recognised as having the fundamental right to exercise independence to its maximum in living inclusive and fulfilled lives.  

As charged in Section 42 of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014), all public bodies must (as part of their “public Sector Duty”) devise means and arrangements to consult directly with disabled people in the first instance and not regard service providers and disability NGOs as the “go-to” authorities on every aspect of matters impacting on the inclusion and independence of disabled people. Public bodies need to ensure that their consultation process under Section 42 are based on directly engaging with Disabled Person’s Organisations. This will be especially pertinent as your Department outlines how obligations under the Public Sector Duty and the UNCRPD will be met to engage with disabled people through DPOs. “Nothing About Us Without Us” must be respected as guiding all consultative processes. 

Yours sincerely, 
Des Kenny
Chairperson, Independent Living Movement Ireland