I have worked with people with disabilities in Ireland and other countries. I`ve spoken to families of people with disabilities and I experience disabilities myself. I have also studied the topic of disability. So, lets be clear, I do consider myself as somewhat of an authority on this issue.
There are a variety of emotions people experience whether they are born with disabilities or develop them. The resentment of the so called able people who can function in life in a way that society demands. Frustration at trying to convince others that you are still valuable. Anger at having become a person with a disability. Ultimately the person feels hopeless. His care may be inadequate. Others may increase the effects of the disability by treating him as “Special” which is seen as an appropriate term by many but the word conveys that the person is different from others. When a person has a disability that means you are not the same as others, even though it may be your dream to be “Like everybody else”. Too many things may be done for the person who may then lose any independence they may have.
People with disabilities can be written off by others. Some think they are of no use. Others think they are a drain on the state. There is a belief among some that people with disabilities shouldn`t work even though it has been proven numerous times in Britain that people with disabilities can work when given the right supports.
Current disability policy in Ireland is, to be honest, pathetic and it`s discriminatory. I have numerical dyslexia which means I have difficulty with math and anything with numbers including money, time and timetables and recognizing numbers. I worked on and off in jobs I didn`t like or didn`t have any interest in. I was often told that my job would not be adjusted in any way. One person said “that I was here to work the in the same way as everyone else that no exception would be made for you.” to quote a physiotherapist working in a Health Service Executive mental health unit who I worked for. She went on to work in a government advocacy group for people with disabilities. It was clear, having worked with her, she had no idea about the issues for people with disabilities . Even though I knew what I needed for to work employers in Ireland mostly failed to offer support to me except for the Civil Service contracts I was given under the previous government who gave me supported employment.
The final nail in the coffin, as concerns employment, was that the current Irish government took the right away from me to work. They made it difficult, and for most impossible, to have a disability and work. People with disabilities are not included in internships. If they are they are not given a job at the end. That`s a fact. If receiving a payment in social welfare for a disability in Ireland it is illegal to work.
So whats needed to change this? Policies in Ireland need to be positive toward people with disabilities, especially in the area of employment. we could follow the British model whereby the person is given a job and, by law, the employer has to give reasonable accommodation. The person is asked what supports he needs to work in the job and if this doesn`t cost much and is relatively easy for the employer to do then it must be done. Every single one of us has something to offer others. We all have a purpose in life. We need to cherish ourselves for who we are. That we are enough just as we are.
Thankfully nowadays many people see people with disabilities in a more enlightened way because of charities and others who have been educating the population about disability. In Ireland people are addressing disability issues such as abuse in care homes. The future is looking brighter. Government policy needs to change and an interest by all political parties needs to be expressed and reflected in new policies that benefit people with disabilities.