Third Level Institutions need to respect the right of disabled students

Press Release from the Independent Living Movement Ireland (ILMI)

Immediate Release 1st October 2021

ILMI calls on third level institutions to respect disabled student’s exemptions from face coverings

Third Level Institutions need to respect the right of disabled students

Today (Friday, first October) ILMI called on Third Level institutions to respect the needs of disabled students and their right exemptions from face coverings.

“The HSE has been very clear that disabled people can be exempted from face coverings in public settings. This includes disabled people with hidden impairments who cannot wear face coverings due to sensory issues. ILMI as a national Disabled Person’s Organisation is extremely concerned by suggestions that disabled students returning to third level would either not be permitted on campus without face coverings or have to provide medical evidence for an exemption” said Ciaran Delaney, ILMI member. 

“The HSE guidelines are clear. We as disabled people should not have to explain our impairments or require medical justification. We are the experts in our own lives and our own needs. Suggesting we need a medical certificate is not only extremely insulting, it also places a financial burden on many of us to go to our GP to get something we have been told we will not need”, said Selina Bonnie, ILMI Vice Chairperson.

“Disclosure of impairment, including hidden impairments, can be challenging for disabled people. Third level institutions are supposed to promote the active participation of disabled students. There needs to be a clear statement from Minister Simon Harris to reaffirm that disabled students are exempt from face coverings and that no additional costs will be placed on them to “prove” their impairment” added Mr Delaney.

“We as disabled people recognise the importance of public health measures to ensure our collective protection from Covid-19, including the use of face masks. But the exemptions are there for genuine reasons. There are some disabled people who, due to their impairment, cannot use face coverings. The guidance is clear from the HSE. All public bodies need to reaffirm that there is no legal requirement for any form of medical certificate for disabled people to be exempt from using a face covering” said Des Kenny, ILMI Chairperson.