Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Disability Matters

National Disability Inclusion Strategy: Discussion (Resumed)

Photo of Fiona O'LoughlinFiona O'Loughlin (Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

That is good and I am glad to hear that. Dr. McDonagh mentioned shame and stigma earlier and she recognises that some people feel those things. I am really pleased to hear what she has said. I had intended to continue by saying that while the untapped potential of many disabled people is huge in terms of the contributions they can make to society, they are not empowered to do so at this point. It is wonderful that we have Dr. McDonagh as an advocate for those who do not have the opportunity to advocate for themselves. I thank her for that because there are not enough advocates.

I was struck when Dr. McDonagh was talking about the ableist view of things. We often hear about white privilege and it had not really occurred to me that I have a privilege but now, listening to Dr. McDonagh, I understand that I do. As a part of that privilege comes a responsibility to help those who do not the privilege I enjoy in terms of being an abled person.

I agree with what she said to the effect of "nothing about us without us". The voice of people with disabilities has to be front and centre and at the heart of everything that we do. I was involved in the lobby for the EPSEN Act in 2004 because it came after the Special Olympics World Games in which I was involved in 2003. We have to fight for the full commencement of that legislation. I would be interested in Dr. McDonagh's advice as to how we can ensure progress in that regard.

While looking for educational opportunities for those with disabilities, I am conscious that we also need to look at how we can educate others and students in our schools about those with disabilities. I know a wonderful mum, Ms Amanda Kehoe, who has a young son in a wheelchair. Not finding any material available, she wrote her own book, The Adventures of TJ and his Wheelable Chair. She contacts schools, goes around to them and gives reading lessons in order that students have the opportunity to learn about another perspective and how important it is that we encourage our young children and students to think about the ability of the person who has a disability.

The recommendations that the commission made for our terms of reference are worthwhile, in particular on direct engagement and the diversity of people with disabilities. As we know, disability takes many forms. Life can be particularly difficult for those who do not manifest visual signs of disability.

I also appreciate the recommendations for our work programme. I would like to ask the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission about the timeline for Ireland's first report on the UNCRPD. I also want to ask the witnesses about the reporting schedule. That is important. We have to take a rights-based approach. That is enshrined in this and is very different from the model we had. Do the witnesses have comments on that?

I refer to the NDA and the key legislative areas where progress is required. Perhaps its representatives could comment on the timeline on that.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.