The theme of the 11th session of the Strategies for Change (SFC) programme was Disability Policy and Practice in Ireland.
James Crawley and Claire Kenny, both from Independent Living Movement of Ireland (ILMI), made two PowerPoint presentations with each presentation followed by breakout room discussions. As was the case in previous SFC sessions, there was a lively discussion by participants on different themes related to disability.
The first presentation focused on introducing the values and objectives of ILMI which for the participants was a refresher given the group’s strong links to ILMI. During the first break out session, participants were invited to respond to the question if they felt they were equal in Ireland. The participants cited a range of personal experiences that underscored why they do not feel equal in Ireland.
Some of the reasons included, among other things, inaccessible transport services, higher incidence of unemployment among disabled people compared to non-disabled members of society as well as inequalities in other aspects public services. Additionally, we examined the reasons as to why some people choose to identify as persons with disabilities while others prefer to use disabled people. ILMI subscribes to the latter.
In the second presentation, Claire Kenny explained the contents of the National Housing Strategy for Disabled People 2022-2027 which sets out the Government’s vision for delivering housing and related services for disabled people. ILMI has not only contributed significantly while this strategy was formulated but it has also made housing one of its strategic priorities. Making Inclusion a Reality and the ILMI Housing Network provide cases in point for ILMI’s commitment to promoting the housing rights of disabled people in Ireland (more information available at www.ilmi.ie/our-housing-rights. )
The group then divided into breakout rooms to discuss if the participation of disabled is needed in policy making and practice. The participants highlighted several reasons as to why disabled people have an irreplaceable role to play by sharing their lived experiences and expertise to policy making. It was also indicated that disabled people have the rights to fully participate as enshrined in the UN CRPD to which Ireland is a signatory.
There was also a debate on the implications of the concept of universal design to addressing the housing needs of disabled people and other members of society We finally exchanged views regarding whether we need disabled activists and if yes, why. There was a unanimous agreement that disabled activists would have immense contributions to promoting equality issues for disabled people in Ireland. Overall, the SFC session on Disability Policy and Practice in Ireland was very informative and thought-provoking