Working to make community accessible to all at local level

By Mary Dennehy

A seminar on how to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at a local level was recently hosted by South Dublin County Council.

South Dublin County has a population of 278,767 and, according to figures released at the seminar, 36,426 (13 per cent) of that population has at least one disability.

SDCC Implementing the UN CRPD seminar Group image 4 April 2019

According to the figures, the type of disability includes blindness or a serious vision impairment (2,926 people), intellectual disability (4,050 people), deafness or serious hearing impairment (5,242 people), mental health (7,205 people), learning difficulty (8,943 people), difficulty with basic physical activities (17,168 people) and other disabilities, including chronic illness (13,590 people).

Speaking with The Echo after the event, Selina Bonnie, South Dublin County Council’s Disability Liaison, Access and Equality Officer, said: “The seminar had a number of benefits.

“For disabled people in attendance they have a better understanding of their rights and how they can actually realise their rights and access the supports that are there.

“It will also help councillors and council officials to make decisions and deliver services from a more informed position.

“The council is focused on all areas, not just physical access… and is working to make the community accessible to all people.

“Anything that the council is now planning is accessibility proofed, and we’re not just going for the minimum standard.

“We recognise that is just a ‘minimum’ standard and go for excellence where possible.”

Ms Bonnie explained, for example, that the council looks at developments or services from all aspects – including sensory impairment.

The council has also subscribed to the Changing Places Initiative, which encourages the introduction of a changing bench and hoist system in public toilets – with one such facility planned for the new swimming pool in Lucan.

Other practical supports offered to enhance accessibility and inclusion include the provision of a Remote Interpretation Service in County Hall.

South Dublin County Council was also the first council to work with the National Adult literacy Agency in becoming a literacy-friendly local authority.

This approach has helped the council identify any potential literacy-related barriers to customers and staff.

“Some very positive steps have been taken”, Ms Bonnie Said.

“There is always more work to be done and people have very diverse needs but we certainly work hard to do our best.

“That’s why I’m here.

“If a disabled person has a difficulty or can’t access one of our service, they can contact me and I’ll do my best to assist them or put them in touch with the right person or team.”

The seminar on how to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities took place in County Hall, Tallaght, on Thursday, April 4.

The keynote address was delivered by Senator John Dolan, with Dr Iris Elliot, Head of Research at the Irish Himan Rights and Equality Commission and Dr John Bosco Conama, Board Director of the Irish Deaf Society also in attendance.

Dr Conama outlined the Irish sign Language Act 2017, and the practicalities of implanting it at local level.

The seminar was opened up to the wider community and saw councillors, council management, local service providers and residents gather to learn about and discuss inclusion and accessibility in South Dublin County.

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