Offaly election candidate pledges support to people with disabilities

Justin Kelly

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Justin Kelly

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news@offalyexpress.ie

Offaly election candidate pledges support to people with disabilities

Offaly election candidate pledges support to people with disabilities

Social Democrats local election candidate for Birr, Clare Claffey, has offered her support for people with disabilities and has endorsed proposals made by the Disability Federation of Ireland.

Speaking at recent local election hustings hosted by Inclusion Ireland in Tullamore, Clare said: “I am delighted to commit to being an advocate for people with disabilities if elected to Offaly County Council in May. We have been asked to focus on three simple things:

Accessibility – I will work to make sure that all public services are open and accessible for people with disability

Participation – It is vital that we ensure the full participation of people with disabilities on all local decision-making structures

Planning – I will make it a priority to ensure Offaly County Council publishes a plan detailing how they will enact the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, by 2020.

"As a Party, the Social Democrats have signed up to the Disability Federation of Ireland’s campaign #DisabilityVotesCount. The party is promising that each of their elected Councillors will campaign for much better access for people with disabilities, ensuring their voice is heard in all Council decisions, and ensuring a plan is in place for each local authority by 2020 for people with disabilities."

Claffey continued: “In Offaly, 14% of the population – over 11,000 people - have at least one disability. We know from the latest Census that the vast majority of these people have a chronic illness or difficulties with basic physical activities. Many did not progress beyond primary education. Many do not have access to transport. A much higher proportion are unemployed than in the general population. Yet, supports to help integrate people with physical and intellectual disabilities are seriously lacking in our county council."

“I will work to ensure a focus on universal design –the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability. On a practical level, this means assessing all policies, plans or projects well in advance, to ensure they meet the criteria of universal design - accessible playgrounds, adequate housing and parking for people with disabilities, designing streetscapes so that people with disabilities are not hindered by parked cars, bins, dog fouling, streetlights and signposts."

"I believe a clear commitment to people with disabilities should be written into Offaly County Council’s next County Development Plan and into the policies of the Local Community Development Committee, and if elected I will lead the charge on this.”

Claffey has three young children with long term health issues and said this makes her very conscious of the importance of providing supports for people of all ages with disabilities.

"As a parent of children with disabilities, I know first-hand how difficult everyday life can be - but also how simple measures can enable people with disabilities to participate more fully in decision making and access services and facilities that other people take for granted. While on the campaign trail these last few months, I have met people whose lives are being made difficult because of housing that is not accessible, poor repair of footpaths and public areas and in my opinion this is not acceptable."

Inclusion Ireland has asked that all candidates running for local election commit to promoting the rights of persons with intellectual disabilities by advocating for equality-proofing of housing and planning, ensuring accessible transport and generating meaningful employment opportunities for people with disabilities in their communities.

Claffey said: “I was delighted to speak with Patricia Kelly, Employment Officer with EmployAbility Midlands, but I was shocked to hear how she has struggled to secure placements for people with disabilities in the public sector in the Midlands."

"We know that all public sector buildings are now fully accessible, and many have assistive technologies, so there is no excuse for them not to support meaningful work placements for people with disabilities, which could be a bridge to full-time employment elsewhere. I was happy to give my commitment to Patricia that I will work with her if elected to secure placements for people with disabilities in Offaly County Council."

“Inclusion Ireland have also asked that councillors work to ensure that people with disabilities will have access to a good supply of accessible accommodation in which they can live independent and well-connected lives within the community and that transport that is accessible and affordable is ensured. The point was made by one of the participants in today’s meeting that this is not a medical issue, it is, in fact, a human rights issue, and I intend to treat it with the urgency it requires."