Categories
Newsletter

Newsletter of Voice of Vision Impairment (VVI) – July, 2020 to February, 2021

Below is a brief summary of some of our key (but background) moments which don’t necessarily make it onto the usual website of info@vvi.ie fare.

New Rep

January 2021 got off to a great start, with VVI gaining a new member of our reps team; that is, Ed Harper, based in west Cork, who has an outstanding record in rights-based campaigning, and we count ourselves very lucky to have the benefit of his wisdom.

David Nestor, our second Meath rep, has stepped back from much of his PPN role in order to concentrate on recovering from a serious illness, and we all keenly wish David a very speedy and long-lasting recovery. Many thanks to Gillian Stafford for temporarily, but very ably, stepping into David’s shoes as VVI rep on Meath PPN.

Irish Rail

In June 2020, the long and hard work by VVI’s Barry O’Donnell, campaigning for the provision of mobile phone numbers for commuter passengers wanting to contact “hub stations” for assistance, finally came to fruition. Some creases are still to be ironed out.

The mobile numbers are available at:
https://www.irishrail.ie/travel-information/accessibility-onboard-trains/access-dart-northern-commuter

Barry’s long campaign for better audio signage on Luas regarding dual destinations (e.g., Busaras or the Point), is also making some headway, with noticeable improvements on some lines. Ultimately, we push for platform announcements.

Prisoners with a Visual Impairment

VVI was proud to have attended a conference of civil society organisations with an active interest in The Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), and In particular, the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) designed to indpendently monitor the conditions of Inmates in Irish prisons, as part of the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT0. VVI has an ongoing concern for the conditions of prisoners with visual impairments, and we look forward to having the resources and supports to be able to play our part in the NPM.

Bus Éireann

In August, 2020, VVI joined Bus Éireann’s Disabled User Group, with Barry O’Donnell as our talented representative. VVI is now represented on the Disabled User Groups of Irish Rail, Dublin Bus, and Luas, as well as Bus Éireann.

DPC Network

VVI is a founding member of the DPO Coalition, and in September, 2020, the Coalition became one of the five funded members of the Disability Participation and Consultation Network (DPC Network). In January, VVI officially became a member of the Network in its own right. The Network is the State’s effort at box-ticking Article 4.3 of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD). The Network’s start has been inauspicious, and we have concerns that it might be a white elephant, but all this can change if the State finally formally acknowledges the prioritisation of DPOs in consultations, as guaranteed under the CRPD.

DPO Coalition’s Shadow Report

On Wednesday evening, February 10th, eight VVI members, in our own break-out room, participated in the DPO Coalitions focus-group stage of research for the purposes of its shadow report on the State’s implementation of the CRPD, to be published later in the year. Themes covered included health, education, employment, and independent living. The meeting lasted for more than two hours, but genuinely, the feedback has been very positive, and it has given us a renewed confidence in Zoom in facilitating larger meetings of VVI.

Numbers were capped at eight, and so, we had not enough places to meet the demand. However, no-one will be left behind in having their voice count, and anyone who has not so far had a chance to take part, will have a chance in the next researches phases.

VVI’s own shadow report will focus on Article 4.3 of the CRPD, which is a crucial, but macro/legal component of the Convention. Without Article 4.3 being implemented, nothing else can follow. VVI continues to use our position as a national DPO to represent people with a visual impairment in our campaigning, on a daily basis, for accessible policies and design, based on the lived experience of our members, and this focus is always at the core of our overall project.

Regarding other aspects of disability, other DPO Coalition members are inviting outside participation in their own research projects.

AsIAm, the national DPO focussing on autism, is looking for written or recorded submissions regarding its shadow report on the CRPD, and is arranging two Zoom meetings, the first to be held on March 1st, with Alistair de Gaetano.

More information at
https://asiam.ie/webinar-education-rights-uncrpd/

The second is a Healthcare webinar on Wednesday 3rd March from 7-9., with Dr. Mary Doherty, an autistic doctor and researcher. She has co-written research on the barriers to Our link to the first talk with Alistair on Monday 1st March from 7-9 is now live:

More information at https://www.asiam.ie

Disabled Women Ireland (DWI), are inviting all women and non-binary people over the age of 18 who identify, sensory impairment, or mental health consition, as having a disability, to join them in responding to the State’s report on the CRPD. Accordingly, DWI invites relevant parties to three Zoom meetings on any of these dates:

  • Wednesday, March 3rd, 3-5pm
  • Saturday, March 6th, 11am-11pm
  • Monday March 8th, International Womens Day, 7-9pm.

To register, email disabledwomenireland@gmail.com by March 1st, with your name, date of the discussion you’d like to attend, and which topics you would like to discuss, your specific access requirements, if any. Written submissions are also welcome.

More details on www.disabledwomenireland.org

Right to Vote

In October, VVI’s Robbie Sinnott was a guest-speaker at the 10th birthday special webinar celebration of the Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA). It was through PILA that Robbie was able to take a case to the High Court in order to win the right to vote for people with a severe visual impairment – a case which he won in 2017. The theme of the webinar was ‘using the law to obtain rights’, a theme very close to VVI’s heart. VVI continues to work with the Dept. of Housing in order to make voting accessible to people with a severe visual impairment. The accessibility gap is still massive. This year will see the inauguration of a new election or voting commission, and we are hoping things will improve in the meantime, and afterwards.

Web Help

In November, Colin Eire, from Iconology.ie, kindly agreed to offer pro bono services in helping with our website and content. He joins the brilliant Trevor Lyons who has been doing the needful by himself up until now. We should say that the site is still very much under construction, and any shortcomings are not a result of Colin’s expertise, but of our own testing and feedback mechanisms which are still ongoing.

Milestone in Public Sector Equality Duty

Under the Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014), every statutory body must take steps to build the protection of the rights of minorities into its framework. Fulfilment of this obligation has generally been zero, or close to zero, since 2014. VVI is pleased to say that it was part of the first consultation of a Local Authority on implementation of its Public Sector Duty. In January, 2021, we participated in a consultative meeting with Meath County Council on its plans to take the Public Sector Duty obligations seriously. More information on the Public Sector Duty can be found at www.ihrec.ie

Call for Members

Membership of VVI is open to anyone in Ireland who has a visual impairment, and all are welcome, unconditionally (apart from the condition of being visually impaired). To join us, please write to info@vvi.ie, and you will be sent your membership number.It’s as easy as that. If you are already a member, please share our invitation to and with anyone you know with a visual impairment.

Issues

VVI reps are tirelessly campaigning on many fronts (most of which are not mentioned in this newsletter). We depend on the pool of expertise of our members. If you are a member of VVI, and if something is a significant problem for you, please let us know, and we will work on the issue in an inclusive way, and make sure that the perspective is counted in our policies and position papers, in line with our Constitution. Again, please contact info@vvi.ie.

Reminder

Anyone who wishes to take part in the DPO Coalition Consultation on your lived experience and issues relating to your visual impairment, which takes place at 7-9pm on Wednesday February 10th, please contact info@vvi.ie before noon on Tuesday. Your voice is not only welcome, it makes us who we are.

Categories
Disability

What is Disability?

There are two competing concepts of disability. To sum them up, the Social Model uses the term “disabled people,” because we are disabled by the system. The Medical Model uses “People with Disabilities,” as if our impairments are the cause of the discrimination against us and ultimately of our disability.

1. The Medical Model

In short, the medical model individualises and privatises disability, and institutionalises the problem. It sees disability as being an individual trait or condition of a person that needs to be treated or controlled. A person’s impairment is seen as the primary problem, and quite often the treatment involves training their behaviour in order to adjust as best they can to traditional social norms, and ‘managing their expectations’, so that they don’t lose the run of themselves and expect everyday equality and recognition of the legitimacy of their own lived experiences.

1.1. Language

The Medical Model is encapsulated in the phrase “people with disabilities” (often PWDs), which confuses a person’s having an impairment with their being disabled by designs, policies, systems, and society in general. Disability is treated like a disease, such as AIDS, or herpes, that someone is unfortunate enough to have contracted or been born with, rather than treating disability as a set of social barriers.

It is thus embarrassing, and somewhat unfortunate, that the phrase “people with disabilities” is given such prominence in the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. It makes as much sense to say that someone of colour is “with racism” or someone who identifies as LGBTQIA is “with homophobia,” etc. That is to say, just like racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., disability is something that needs to be eliminated, not perpetuated, and even celebrated, as a way of categorizing vast diverse swathes of humanity.

The “International Day of People with Disabilities” is an example of this attempted celebration of disability as an identity. It is a bit like having an International Day for People with Inherent Inequality,” or an “International Day of Second Class Citizens,” where the world is encouraged to think about such unfortunates for a day, and maybe think of ways in which their plight might be in some way lessened on the individual level; or more likely, just think of them, possibly with pity, and be thankful that it isn’t yourself.

1.2. Supercrip

Just as the supposed answers are sometimes reduced to an individual or localized level, In the medical model, the individual disabled person is often singled out and celebrated, especially if they have achieved a goal way beyond what society expects of them.

Such feted heroes almost always are celebrated for having achieved something of zero social consequence, except that they might be a role model ‘especially for the rest of us, who thought we had problems until we see what some others have to put up with’. Such heroes, apart from their standout feats, are supposed to inspire individual optimism, but are strictly mute on the social aspects of the discrimination they face on a daily basis. If anything, they allow themselves to be co-opted by the disability industry.

The “supercrip” depiction feeds its way into media representations, such as film, and perpetuates social stereotypes, but it has a more insidious and subjugating effect for the vast majority of disabled people: it demoralises those who are struggling with daily institutionalised disablism, and implicitly undermines their lived experience – putting the entire problem of coping right back on the individual level. Furthermore, it gives weight to the already loud voice of the elite disabled, while further drowning out the concerns of the vast majority who are not being heard, or not being listened to.

The message is, “if x can do it, why can’t you?! In such a way is disability internalised, and the disabled individual is encouraged to blame themselves for the institutionalised discrimination they face daily.

1.3. Una Voce

Apart from high-achieving exemplars being singled out, disabled people find themselves being segregated into faux communities, all beneath an overarching umbrella of a cumbaya-like pan-disability unity which we are all supposed to aspire to. However, with the possible exception of the Deaf Community, people with particular impairments don’t necessarily share cultural or any other affinities with people with similar impairments, apart from suffering similar types of discrimination at various times in their lives.

Even people with identical impairments, however, may have widely varying practical skills, coping skills, networking supports, etc., so if there is unity in discrimination even on this narrow scale, it is unity in the loosest sense of the word in terms of what might be assumed to be a community based on adversity. People opposed to this false unity are accused of ‘siloing’ and being divisive.

1.4. The Disability Industry

The medical model has traditionally infantilised the disabled person, and has made them dependent on a charity-based disability industry, rather than having the State be made accountable for equal access to services and rights. The medical model makes the representation of the needs and understanding of disabled people the domain of non-disabled specialized “experts,” rather than letting disabled people speak for themselves.

Worse still, this non-disabled representation of the disabled is entirely dominated by the heavy hitters of the privatized, but heavily subsidized, disability industry, i.e., the institutionalized service-providers who necessarily have a “conflict of interest” (according to General Comment 7 of the Convention itself), when claiming to advocate on behalf of disabled people.

The disability industry is one of the few sectors in which such a practice is not only tolerated, but wholly facilitated by the various statutory structures of consultation and funding etc. Some will even co-opt people with impairments onto their boards, or use them as spokespeople, to add to their alibi or imply legitimacy in their advocacy, but if they are a service provider, the conflict of interest is undeniable.

1.5. Lobbying vs. Campaigning

Today, the medical model has a firm hold on all statutory decisions relating to disability in the Republic of Ireland, despite General Comment 7 (September, 2018), requiring this institutionalized stitch-up to be brought to an end. Those organizations with the best resourced representation, and their feet already under the decision-making tables, are primarily service-providers, so it will take a concerted effort to alter this chicken and egg impasse. To extend the metaphor, the established charities will not be the turkeys voting for Christmas. They will need a helping hand to vacate the advocacy space they currently, wrongly, occupy. The traditional charities even brazenly proclaim themselves to be “representative organizations.” A simple way of framing this situation is that service-providers necessarily “lobby,” while DPOs “campaign,” because we have no conflict of interest, and only want the realisation of our basic Human Rights.

1.6. Recap

Neither disability, nor even subgroups of disability, are causes of celebration. Rather, disability needs to be eliminated, not celebrated, and we cannot have equal rights until then. Social barriers need to be removed, and people with impairments accepted and allowed to participate as equals in their wider communities and society. The only means of doing this, according to the CRPD, is to recognize DPOs as being the voice of the disabled, i.e., not service-providers, and not non-disabled-led organizations.

2. The Social Model of Disability

The Social Model of Disability recognizes that people are not born disabled, but rather, they are disabled by negligent design, policies, and decision-making. In other words, an individual may be born with or acquire an impairment, but it is society that creates the disability by allowing, and even actively propagating, barriers that lead to the social exclusion of people with impairments.

Disability is not something we have; disability is something done to us…we are actively being disabled by the ignorance of others, and that alone is what it means to be disabled, i.e., in the same way that someone might be said to be assaulted. As such, we are not “people with disabilities,” in the same way that we don’t speak of there being a category of “people with discrimination.”

2.1. For the Elimination of Disability

So, because disability is primarily caused by society, and not by nature, it is the responsibility of society (from the global to the local), to prevent the disabling of people…to prevent disability. An individual’s impairments may or may not be curable, but disability is a social ill that is totally curable in most cases, even if this means reconfiguring what have been traditionally accepted as indispensable convention or ideal.

2.2. Integration and Universal Design

The Social Model emphasizes the rights of disabled people to have equal access to services and to be able to participate as equals in their societies. Rights, including rights to services, is incompatible with the charity/medical model of service-provision, not least because all services should be accessible on an integrated basis (i.e., as near as is possible to the same time and place for all service-users). So, instead of ghettoing service-provision for disabled people, the concept “universal design” must be utilised to make sure that people who are now disabled, become equal members of society, in practice and in perception.

2.3. Expertise and Lived Experience

The CRPD recognises that the experts in disability are disabled people, themselves, because of their own lived experience. It is for this reason that they, through their DPOs, need to be prioritised in all consultations on policy and design, etc. Denying the priority, or significance, or even validity, of lived experience by not recognising it as the expert voice for which it is, adds insult to injury, is dehumanising, and can be humiliating.

The social model of disability realises that the voice of the most marginalised and disabled is fundamental to the concept of universal design. Even the 99% does not have the right to deny the legitimacy and rights of the 1%.

3. Disabled Persons Organizations (a.k.a. Disabled Peoples Organizations)

In the Social Model, the primary experts in disability are those who are disabled, and they need to be prioritized in the formulation of Universal Design and any policies or decisions relating to disabled people – i.e., everything. To make things manageable, the UN Convention wisely lays down the notion of disabled people being represented through their “representative organizations,” which are run by disabled people, are primarily membered by disabled people, and which are not service-providers. The Social Model approach refers to these representative groups as Disabled Peoples Organizations (DPOs).

As noted above, the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities erroneously uses the Medical Model notions of disability being owned by the individual, rather than by the State or society. Similarly, what we know as DPOs, are referred to in General Comment 7 of the Convention as “organizations of people with disabilities,” and are distinguished from what we call non-DPOs (i.e., “organizations for people with disabilities” (General Comment 7.13).

4. Ongoing Impacts of Historical Legacy

In Ireland, there is a strong tradition and legacy of the service-providing charities being seen as the experts in disability management etc., and with their very strong brand-names, they are often the go-to people for the State and all other types of organization, to find out anything about particular impairments or the disability norms in general.

Such service-providers cannot be, nor can they ever be, DPOs, by virtue of the intrinsic conflict of interests mentioned in General Comment 7 when it comes to service-provision and advocacy. Currently, also, the service-providers are led by non-disabled people, and are run (i.e., on boards) by mostly non-disabled people. Any confusion of the notion of “DPO” necessarily further disadvantages the real DPOs, and allows the non-DPOs to continue to imply, if not to claim outright, that they are also DPOs.

The distinction of DPO from non-DPO is at the very core of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (notwithstanding its Medical Model language). All other Articles are necessarily predicated on Article 4.3, since without consultation with the experts (DPOs) from the outset, no State can remotely understand what is meant by the rest of the document.

5. Simple Summary of Differences between DPOs and non DPOs:

5.1. “Of” versus “for”

DPOs are organizations “of” disabled people (i.e., membership, perspective etc.), whereas non-DPOs purport to be “for” disabled people (or “people with disabilities,” as they usually prefer to call us). This distinction between “of” and “for” is made in General Comment 7 of the UN Convention (General Comment 7.13).

5.2. Representative Function

because a DPO cannot be a service-provider, the primary, if not the sole, function of a DPO is the representation of its members in explaining their needs, wishes, and rights to any or all relevant bodies (including statutory bodies, other civil society organizations, and commercial enterprises).

5.3. Members vs. Clients/Service-Users

Membership vs. clients/service-users: DPOs have members, non-DPOs (i.e., service-providers), have mainly clients and service users. The nearest thing thy have to members are the trustees on their board (i.e., board-members). A DPO is comprised of its members, and these members make up the vast majority of personnel with anything to do with the organization. At least an overwhelming majority of those members need to be disabled for the organization to be a DPO. In contrast to a non-DPO, if a DPO has a board, that board is accountable to the wider membership, whereas, by definition, a non-DPO has no other members to be accountable to (if indeed it is accepted that trustee and member mean the same thing).

5.4. Leadership

Disabled-run and Disabled Led: A DPO has to be led and run by disabled people.

5.5. Rights vs. Charity Perspective

DPOs are likely to recognize the reality of the Social Model of disability, and reject the medical model. Therefore, there is a high probability that a DPO is necessarily rights-based, rather than accepting a charity model of service-provision.

5.6. The Language of Disability – “disabled people” versus “people with disabilities”

The recognition of the Social Model means that DPOs are likely to prefer the term “disabled people,” in recognition that we are disabled by society rather than our impairments. Hence, we call ourselves Disabled Peoples Organizations (DPOs). Non-DPOs belie their dependence on the Medical Model by the use of the term “people with disabilities.”

5.7. Language: “Campaigning” versus “Lobbying”

Because a DPO is not a service-provider, and as such has no conflict of interests in advocacy, a DPO “campaigns” decision-makers. By contrast, a non-DPO (usually a service-provider), necessarily has a conflict of interests in advocacy, and therefore “lobbies” decision-makers.

5.8. “Disability Sector”

In keeping with the language of an industry, non-DPOs tend to use the term “disability sector,” in recognition that there is a living to be made from the misfortune of the discrimination against others. Just as it would be offensive to speak of a “racist sector,” a “sexist sector,” or a homophobic sector,” it is equally offensive to speak of a “disability sector;” but that offence is surpassed by deference to the sector when it comes to prioritisation in consultations.

Categories
Newsletter

VVI Concerned at Irish Rail Plans in Ashtown, Fingal

VVI Concerned at Irish Rail’s Imminent Closure of Ashtown Level Crossing:

Voice of Vision Impairment (VVI) is concerned about Irish Rail plans to replace the level crossing in Ashtown, Co. Fingal, with a massive detour for pedestrians.

The proposed new underpass alternative will increase local journeys by vulnerable pedestrians from 300m to 1.8km, and the possibility of a tunnel, itself, gives rise to fears of anti-social behaviour at this pedestrian pinch-point.

VVI calls on Irish Rail to investigate the replacement of the level crossing with an adjacent over-track, step-free, footbridge, in order to preserve the independence and quality of life of vulnerable pedestrians in the Ashtown/Coolmine area.

What Irish Rail Says…

“The plan is to close all level crossings on the Maynooth line with the upgrade to DART. With an increase in services, level crossings would be closed to road traffic the majority of the time leading to major road traffic backlogs and are therefore no longer viable.

Irish Rail’s Access Officer informed us on January 14th, 2021

Due to the layout of the Ashtown crossing with adjacent canal, an overhead bridge would not be workable so a new layout going underneath the railway and canal is the preferred proposal. This would have pedestrian walkways and cycle lanes with a suitable slope for mobility impaired members of the public. Access to the station will be maintained.

See link for more information in regard to Ashtown:

https://www.irishrail.ie/Admin/getmedia/d73fabb6-6a02-47ec-90e4-a8137590c5fa/Ashtown-Roadbridge-Graphic-(A4).pdf

VVI’s Detailed Response

In relation to the closure of Ashtown level crossing, VVI has concerns regarding the lengthy new route to cross the tracks via Mill Road, access to Ashtown Station/Shops; as well as security concerns regarding the likelihood of anti-social behaviour at the pedestrian pinch-point that would be created with the installation of the pedestrian/cycling tunnel under the tracks.

We note from the document ‘DARTWest-brochure-english.pdf’, that:

“It is proposed to close the Ashtown level crossing and provide a vehicular road bridge with pedestrian and cycle facilities. The Emerging Preferred Option provides a new road bridge under the existing railway and the Royal Canal that will be located west of the existing Ashtown Level Crossing predominantly following the route of the existing Mill Lane.”

DART West

We also note that “Access to the station will be maintained.”

Currently, pedestrians from the Ashtown Roundabout, Halfway House Pub, Ashbrook, Martin Savage Park etc can mobilise 300m to go to Supervalu Rathbourne for example, crossing the level crossing en route.

The westbound platform for rail services to Castleknock Clonsilla, Maynooth etc can be accessed without having to cross the tracks.

The eastbound platform for rail services to City Centre etc can either be accessed by crossing the footbridge or walking accross the level crossing when it is open to traffic.

We note there is no mention of a proposed lift or accessible (step free) pedestrian overbridge at Ashtown in the plans.

Pedestrians with mobility difficulties will therefore have to travel what we would estimate to be 1.8km detour via the Mill Road railway/canal underbridge/underpass in order to go shopping at Supervalu Rathbourne or indeed just to access the city bound platform at Ashtown Station.

In the case of Coolmine level crossing, we note that:
“It is proposed to close the Coolmine level crossing and provide a vehicular road bridge with a separate pedestrian and cyclist bridge. The Emerging Preferred Option provides a new road bridge crossing over the railway line and Royal Canal that will connect St. Mochta’s Grove / Station Court located to the north with Riverwood Court Road to the south. A new standalone pedestrian and cycle bridge will be provided over the railway line and Royal Canal immediately adjacent to Coolmine Station.”

As well as our safety concerns, the excessive detour just to go shopping or indeed to access the city bound platform when travelling from the Ashtown Roundabout is significant.

Likewise residents with mobility difficulties unable to use the footbridge on the Rathbourne side of the track will have to cover an excessive journey simply to access the Westbound platform to Maynooth etc.

Conclusion

As things stand, the proposed plan is necessarily discriminatory against those with mobility impairments, and is bound to have a negative impact on the lives and independence of disabled pedestrians travelling in the Ashtown/Coolmine area.

We think it essential for safety and mobility/independence of the most vulnerable, that Irish Rail investigate the provision of an accessible footbridge at the to-be-closed Ashtown Level crossing in order to maintain seamless access for pedestrians.

Everyone has the right to safe access to their environment and equal participation in their community.

VVI’s concerns were put to Irish Rail on January 15th, and we await a response.

Categories
Newsletter

Learn about the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

What does it mean for people with Disabilities in Ireland? An
information webinar presented by the Disabled Persons Coalition (DPOCoalition).

This information webinar will take place on Wednesday 27th January, 7pm – 9pm.

You will get information about:

  • The Convention and what it means
  • How you can engage in the Government’s consultation on Ireland’s
  • Draft State Report
  • The DPO Coalition’s planned Shadow Report

Ireland’s Draft Initial State Report under the UN CRPD was published in December 2020 and is open for consultation until March 3rd 2021.

The DPO Coalition is one of four funded Disability Participation and Consultation Network members who will be making a submission on the State’s Draft Report.

The DPO Coalition is also developing an independent report that ‘shadows’ the State’s report and presents an alternative view of how the State has met its obligations under the Convention.

At the webinar we will inform you about further webinars, community consultations and focus group discussions.

What is the DPO Coalition?

The DPO Coalition is an alliance of disabled people and disabled peoples organisations (DPOs) which was established in 2020 to develop and submit a report to the United Nations (UN) on Ireland’s implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities (CRPD).

Who should attend?

  • Disabled people
  • Anyone interested in the UN CRPD and its process
  • Anyone planning to contribute to the Irish Draft Initial State Party Report

How to Register

If you would like to register contact Independent Living Movement of
Ireland (ILMI) at info@ilmi.ie.

Categories
Newsletter

VVI Concerned About Covid Vaccine Plan

VVI (Voice of Vision Impairment) is Ireland’s national DPO for issues relating to the rights and needs of people with a visual impairment., and we have serious concerns regarding the accessibility of the Covid vaccination programme. These concerns are, along with the required solutions, are set out below:

In sum, they are:

  1. Neglect of the particular vulnerabilities of people with a visual impairment in the prioritization levels.
  2. Lack of planning to make vaccination centres reachable by people with severe visual impairments.
  3. Lack of planning for accessible consent process and accessible information for blind and partially sighted recipients of the vaccines.

More Details and Solutions

1. Prioritization:

In the Provisional Vaccine Allocation Groups published by the Dept. of Health on December 7th, 2020, there is no acknowledgement of the heightened susceptability of people with a severe visual impairment to contracting covid.

https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/39038-provisional-vaccine-allocation-groups/#provisional-vaccine-allocation-groups

For example, people with a visual impairment cannot effectively socially distance when we are out and about, since the faculty of sight is the primary sense used in the fulfilment of a person’s social distancing requirements. Also, we often rely on touch much more, for navigation and stability/support, especially in enclosed environments such as public transport. Furthermore, when entering a public building, such as a supermarket, we cannot independently locate hand sanitizers.

Using the rationale and ethical principals laid out in the Dept. of Health document, people with a severe visual impairment, especially those living alone, or living on the streets, should be prioritized to at least the equivalent of level 9 on the current scale.

Level 9 applies to ‘People aged 18-64 living or working in crowded settings’

Rationale: Disadvantaged sociodemographic groups more likely to experience a higher burden of infection.
Ethical Principles: The principles of moral equality, minimising harm (especially in the context of multi-generational households) and fairness are relevant. Prioritising this group recognises that structural inequalities make some people more vulnerable than others to COVID-19

While the situational specifics are clearly not identical, the rationale and ethical principles are clearly equivalent.

Solution:

We are concerned that the vulnerability of thousands with a severe visual impairment is not being recognized or factored into the current roll-out prioritisations. We ask that in the interest of public health and the safety of people with a visual impairment in the State, that this vulnerable sector be better prioritised in the roll-out, at least to the equivalent of what is currently level 9.

2. Accessibility of Vaccination Centres:

We have seen no evidence of planning for people with mobility impairments, including those with visual impairments, regarding how we are supposed to find our way to the vaccination centres. 86% of those with a severe visual impairment are not in official employment, and therefore, are at the lowest end of the socio-economic scale. The principle of moral equality means that we should not have to pay €50+ in taxi-fares in order to get to and from vaccination centres. With large hospital campuses, etc., taxi is usually the only way a blind person can independently access particular clinics etc.

Solution:

While an appointment is being made with a person who has a visual impairment, arrangements should be facilitated whereby a prepaid taxi will collect and return the person for whom the appointment is being made.

3. Accessible Information:

On an interview on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland on December 28th, 2020, the Tánaiste, Leo Veradkar, stressed the importance of consent forms to be signed by each person at the vaccination centre, and that when the vaccination had been given, the vaccinated person will be given an After-care advice leaflet and a vaccine record card.

All of this is verified in the HSE’s online information:

https://www2.hse.ie/screening-and-vaccinations/covid-19-vaccine/

The State already has a legal obligation to provide all published material in accessible formats, including online, and in braille. There is no evidence of ongoing or planned work in this regard in the HSE’s advice information.

Solution:

Signed Consent: There are many alternatives to the traditional means of verification, but vaccinators need to be made aware of these alternatives in advance so that blind and partially sighted people receiving the vaccine can be facilitated, and not be discriminated against. VVI (Voice of Vision Impairment) is the only national DPO focussing specifically on the needs and rights of people with a visual impairment, and therefore, need to be prioritized in any consultations in this matter (see General Comment 7 of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities). VVI is happy to advise the State in the alternatives to paper signatures, and all other relevant matters.

Accessible Information: Likewise, we in VVI are happy to fulfil our function by giving our expert advise on the needs of people with a visual impairment in relation to the production of accessible information.

Categories
Newsletter

VVI radio ad on LMFM

VVI placed radio ad’s on LMFM in a drive for new members
The ad was broadcast in 2020 between December 18th and 21st.

VVI ad for LMFM

Transcription of the ad:

Do you sometimes wonder why things aren’t accessible enough?

VVI. Voice of Vision Impairment wants to be a platform for your voice.

We are welcoming new members form County Meath and County Louth.

You can be part of the national and local decision-making process.

So, if you have a visual impairment and if you think that accessible is a right rather than a favour, join VVI today by emailing info@vvi.ie – to join us and make a difference.

That’s info at vvi dot i e.

For more information visit vvi.ie

Categories
Newsletter

VVI Bus Connects Observation

In repsonse to the National Transport Authority’s Bus Connects plan, VVI have raised a number of key concerns.

If concerns are not addressed it could have impacts for the most vulnerable pedestrians (including children under 10 and people over 75), as well as those with severe disabilities.

In our paper “VVI Bus Connects Observation, 2020.12” we outline these impacts and concerns.

Categories
Newsletter

State Publishes Draft Report on its Implementation of Convention on the Rights of Persons

On December 3rd, 2020, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth published the State’s Initial Report under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the progress made by the Irish Government in relation to realising the rights of disabled people outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD).

VVI (Voice of Vision Impairment) will be participating in providing feedback to the Department through “The Disability Participation and Consultation Network” in co-operation with the Disabled Person Coalition (DPO Coalition), of which VVI is a founder member.

The DPO Coalition has been funded to provide feedback to the Department of Justice on its draft document. The DPO Coalition is currently developing a consultation framework to ensure your opinions are communicated and make a difference. The DPO Coalition, through its member organizations, including VVI, will be asking for your involvement to talk about your lived experience, the challenges you face and the obstacles you are trying to overcome.

VVI currently only has a voluntary staff, but we are committed to doing our best to make sure that the voices of people with a visual impairment (including your voice), are heard.

These consultation meetings will happen early next year and we will be bringing you more news about how to get involved in January.

If you have a visual impairment and are interested in getting involved, or just finding out things as they happen, all you need to do is write to us at info@vvi.ie, and we’d love to have you as a member.

At the same time as this research work is going on, the DPO Coalition will also be developing its own “Shadow Report”. This report is not a Government report, it will be developed by the DPO members to give clear feedback to the UN committee on the members’ views of the Government’s progress.

VVI, ourselves,, will also be preparing our own, independent, shadow report on the State’s implementation of the CRPD, and again, the involvement of as many people with a visual impairment as possible will be greatly valued, and greatly enrich our report.

All of these projects will be an exciting opportunity for us to have our opinions and experience recognised and we look forward to getting you involved.

The members of the DPO coalition are:

As well as VVI (Voice of Vision Impairment), the current members of the DPO Coalition are:

  • As I Am
  • Independent Living Movement Ireland (ILMI)
  • Irish Deaf Society (IDS)
  • National Platform of Self Advocates
  • Disabled Women of Ireland (DWI)

Looking forward to hearing from you,
The VVI team

Categories
Documentation

VVI’s Submission to Irish Rail’s Accessible Station Design Manual (July, 2020)

Here are links to a document that we in VVI have authored and have provided to Irish Rail.

Categories
Newsletter

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. https://www.iprt.ie/iprt-publications/making-rights-real-for-people-with-disabilities-in-prison/