Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 19 May 2022

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Disability Matters

Employment and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Discussion (Resumed)

Mr. Patrick Flanagan:

On the exclusion of disabled people from certain careers, this is an explicit example of discrimination. One career that comes to mind is the Defence Forces. If Ireland had to defend itself against a hostile invasion tomorrow - I hope we will not have to do so but, as we can see, there is plenty of hostility in the world - and I wanted to be a member of the Defence Forces, I have a severe physical impairment and although I may look normal, I cannot hold up a gun so I would not do much good on the front line. However, I would like to imagine that I might be able to help with strategy. If I wanted to be a garda, there is no reason to prevent me from becoming an IT expert or criminology expert. If I wanted to be part of the National Ambulance Service, I might be an excellent co-ordinator or communicator or I might be great at organising the movement or distribution of services. To explicitly say that these areas of work are automatically off limits to disabled people is unnecessary and unfair.

There are certain jobs that disabled people cannot do. We are not going to look to do those jobs because we know ourselves when we physically cannot do something. An example that springs to mind involves a friend of mine whom I have known for years. I hope he will not mind me referring to him. He is a huge fan of Airsoft and paintball. He has a similar condition to me and uses a powered wheelchair. It has an incredible tank that has been built up over his chair. He has travelled all over Europe to play paintball and Airsoft. If this country was down to its last few guys, I am sure he would happily go to the front line and change the paint balls to live ammunition. He would do what he needed to do. My point is that there is always a way. There should be no explicit barriers to deter disabled people from taking up roles in various areas.

On time efficiency being the biggest barrier, that is an issue for the individual. An individual assigned a piece of work may be concerned that they will not get it done in time to meet a deadline or in the time they wanted to complete it. It is an issue for a reason and a reality but it can often be the perception of employers. If it takes a disabled person half a day longer to complete a report, the employer should ask the employee to get the report done half a day earlier. If there is a more pressing time issue, perhaps someone could assist the employee. If the task cannot be completed in time, the person should be given different work to do.

There is always a way to adapt to maximise the ability of somebody rather than focusing on the limitations. Time efficiency is valuable perhaps in respect of time efficiency travel. I was here late today by ten or 15 minutes which was due to traffic more than anything else. I spent a great amount of time this morning trying to ensure I would be on time or early and sometimes things come up and just get in the way, and perhaps more so for myself than for somebody else. That is something that we just have to adapt to, be aware of, and be willing to accommodate. If we are willing to accommodate the issues, there is no issue.

Can Deputy Cairns remind me of her third question, please?