Newsletter, May/June, 2020

Our website has been quiet in the past few months, but VVi’s reps have been very busy working on policy documents and position papers, and engaging in consultations regarding policies and decisions of statutory bodies.

New Rep: In April, VVI welcomed on board it’s eighth rep, Martin O’Sullivan, based in Dublin City. Martin has a distinguished record in activism on behalf of the rights and needs of people with a visual impairment.

Accessibility of Broadcasting Services: In March, 2020, one of our members, Robbie Sinnott, as a member of RTÉ’s Audience Council, was instrumental in getting RTÉ to employ its first Access Officer under the 2005 Disability Act. The same process also led to RTÉ committing to report on its Public Sector Equality Duty (2014 Human Rights and Equality Commission Act). Work is ongoing to secure a much better Audio Description service, and to ensure accessibility of RTÉ’s apps. Many thanks to Barry O’Donnell for his work on the latter.

Accessible Communications: VVI’s Dublin City reps were instrumental in getting Dublin City Council to acquire its own braille embosser so that it can communicate in a timely manner to its citizens who have braille as a preferred format. Thanks to Áine Wellard for her ongoing consultative work in perfecting the system. Visually impaired people use different forms of communication depending on individual preferences, and they all have equal validity.

Accessible Travel and Local Planning: In March, 2020, Gerry Shanahan became Tipperary PPN’s Social Inclusion representative on the Infrastructure Strategic Policy Committee of Tipperary County Council. This brings to three, so far, the number of members VVI has sitting on Strategic Policy Committees, since we already have two in Dublin City: Áine Wellard represents the PPN’s Social Inclusion pillar on the Housing SPC, and Robbie Sinnott represents all pillars on the Planning and Urban Form SPC (both since September, 2019).

In February, Robbie Sinnott (VVI’s Co-ordinator), gave a guest-lecture at the Dept. of Sociology in Trinity College Dublin, on Disabled Peoples Organizations and the social model of disability. Thanks to Edurne Garcia for facilitating this engagement with her Third Year module class.

Edurne Garcia also facilitated contact between VVI and the Inclusive Research Network, and on March 11th, VVI gave a presentation to IRN on what it means to VVI to be a DPO. We were clear that the short-term picture is not at all rosey, because the State has put non-DPOs in charge of the roll-out of the State’s engagement with DPOs. But, in the long-term, we are hopeful that the independent voice of service-users, and not service-providers, will win out as being genuine DPOs.

In January, 2020, VVI’s Robbie Sinnott spoke at the launch of the report “Making Rights Real for Prisoners with Disabilities,” which was produced by the Penal Reform Trust and commissioned by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. Robbie had been on the advisory committee for the report. The two most marginalized groups in Ireland today are prisoners , and those with disabilities; and it could be argued that prison, as currently constituted, is an institution of deliberate disabling. However, even within that system there are people who have been socially disabled since birth – because of their impairments or neurodivergence, and these are truly the marginalized of the marginalized…the most disabled of all. They need to be listened to by us all.