28 Jan 2022

Call out to Offaly businesses to clear a way for those with disabilities

AN event to highlight issues facing those with disabilities while trying to navigate public spaces, was held in O'Connor Square, Tullamore.

Declan Costello of Offaly Disability Equality Network (ODEN) welcomed the reopening of businesses. "We want to work with the local business community and the county council to make sure the town is accessible for all. It's a work in progress, this is all new for everyone. People have licences to have outdoor furniture and the town looks fabulous," said Declan.

Continuing he said: "We are not here to highlight what is wrong. We welcome that businesses are open again and we can all go for a cup of coffee but just to be aware. It's trying to work to make sure people don't leave sandwich boards in the middle of a pathway, or an empty bin or a bicycle lying down. Our role is not to highlight the blackspots, maybe down the road, but today is about using this fabulous public space and welcoming businesses back."

Speaker Stephen Keogh from Daingean, said what Offaly county council has done is "absolutely fabulous." However, he said there are some places that need to be highlighted.

"It's hard to be able to walk around things like sandwich boards and street furniture. I know there is leniency on street furniture at the moment but in September you have to apply for a licence."

Stephen also spoke about the difficulty of negotiating shops with cluttered aisles.

"You have to be aware it's very hard for us to get around shops. If it's not easy for people with disabilities to walk around a shop, we will just walk away. It's as simple as that and they are losing out," he stressed.

Tullamore Chamber of Commerce are also on board and they are encouraging businesses to take a look around to make sure that people with disabilities and older people can get by easily on the footpath.

Roger Guiney of the Chamber said "simple changes can create chaos for people with disabilities. We are lucky we have wide streets and the square. It's not true all over the county but the change is coming."

He said he and others had visited a number of shops and cafes in the town to encourage them to be mindful when putting out street furniture and they had been very well received.

The new Cathaoirleach of Offaly County Council, Councillor Declan Harvey said he was honoured to speak at the event.

"I have been supporting this since I was elected and I will always continue to do so. All the businesses have been told they have to have a clear path for those with disabilities, like those who are visibly impaired or people with walking disabilities or in wheelchairs. Offaly county council is on your side, anything we can do we will. Myself and Councillor Danny Owens (who was also present) are in support of this," he concluded.

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