Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 29 September 2022

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Autism

Joint Meeting with Joint Committee on Disability Matters
Accessibility in the Built Environment, Information and Communication: Discussion

Photo of Pauline TullyPauline Tully (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I thank everyone for their presentations. When we have talked about accessibility over the years, we have always thought more about the physical environment but it is about much more than that. Mr. Harris in particular referred to the need to create awareness across all public bodies, employers and services.

I will address a couple of the issues. Universal design and ensuring that housing projects were liveable for wheelchair users was mentioned. A couple of the witnesses mentioned Part M of the building regulations. They have asked for the regulations to be revised. Is that happening? Will they be revised to ensure that all buildings are liveable for wheelchair users? Do we have any idea of the costs of building something to universal design+ standards as against the cost of having to adapt a house or building, because that is often thrown up? Do we have a breakdown on that? Mr. Harris said that we do not really know the number of people who are autistic and that it is not a question on the census. Does he believe it should be?

Do planners and public bodies regularly consult with AsIAm, Independent Living Movement Ireland and their respective members with regard to accessibility issues? Does the NDA employ many people who have disabilities? To what extent does it consult with people who have disabilities? I have talked to people who have been consulted about issues because the body had to do so to tick a box and ensure it was fulfilling its obligations but the advice they gave was just ignored. I am particularly thinking about someone who was consulted on transport issues - I believe it was about cycling lanes or outdoor dining when that came in during the pandemic - but all of their suggestions were just ignored. It must be ensured that consultation is done properly, for the right reasons and not just as a box-ticking exercise. Will the witnesses speak about that?

The NDA has to oversee the directives that are being introduced. Is it properly resourced to do so or is it being asked to climb a mountain with very few resources? I am conscious of time. I thank the witnesses.


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