Independent Living Movement Ireland

Research shows need for investment in strategies to promote real inclusion to build equality for all in Ireland

Worrying lack of acceptance of disabled people in relationships shows lack of genuine inclusion 

Today (Thursday, 29 June) ILMI welcomes the publication of the Survey on Attitudes towards the Equality Grounds Poll.  

“As a cross-impairment Disabled Persons Organisation (DPO) it is noted that there is greater sense of acceptance depending on impairment labels. The general trends of acceptance for people with physical, sensory or intellectual impairments are noted but worryingly disabled people who experience emotional distress are less accepted. In our opinion, this medicalising of people’s emotional distress and labelling people as other contributes to greater marginalisation in society. The more we lock disabled people up and keep us away from society, the less likely we will be accepted by our non-disabled peers” said Des Kenny, ILMI Chairperson.  

The acceptance of disabled people in most aspects of society is supported from the findings of the research but also shows that our outdated medicalised approach to disability, which infantilises and patronises us, has had a huge consequence as being seen as potential romantic partners.  

“Historically disabled persons have been considered passive dependent recipients of care, eternal children, vulnerable people to be fixed or hidden away in the family home, or involuntarily incarcerated in various facilities and institutions. We were considered asexual, or our sexual desires were considered problems to be ‘managed’. The impact on our lives is real and is demonstrated by the drop in acceptance of disabled people as partners in relationships” said Selina Bonnie, ILMI vice chairperson.  

This research demonstrates the need to ensure that any State policies need to invest in strategies to promote inclusion, reduce segregated spaces and build equality into the fabric of Irish society. The comparison with earlier studies also demonstrates worrying trends in reduction of public acceptance of difference over time. As a country we cannot be complacent in assuming that inclusion and equality do not need robust policies, process and legislation to protect those most at risk of being excluded from society.  

“None of us as disabled people exist within a single identity and our impairments do not define us. At our very core as human beings our identities intersect in complex ways. The worrying statistics in this report highlights that prejudice is real for many groups in society. From an ILMI perspective we are concerned about what the impact is for any group, but also recognising that there are disabled Travellers, disabled Roma and disabled people with issues with substance misuse who will undoubtedly face added levels of exclusion from society” added Mr. Kenny. 

ILMI welcomes the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth research but that given the intersectional nature of disabled people’s identity that further research is needed to explore how the life experience of disabled people and their inclusion in society is not solely determined by their impairment label.  

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