Disability Disabled people Submissions & observations

Landmark Decision in Equality Case Brought by Guide Dog Handler

A member of Voice of Vision Impairment (VVI) who was refused service at a Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) emporium on Parnell Street, Dublin, on April 25th 2023, because she was accompanied by her guide dog, called Quilla, has had her complaint upheld in a decision by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), which is the body that hears such cases for adjudication in the first instance.

Maria Rosita Apaza Machaka brought the claim of discrimination against Scotco (RoI) Limited, owners of KFC in Ireland, after she was made to leave the fast-food restaurant having been refused service, because staff insisted that no dogs were allowed on the premises.

The adjudicator at the WRC found that there was inadequate training of KFC staff leading to the incident in which KFC workers on the evening did not know that guide-dog-handlers have a legal right to access services on the same basis as anyone else.

Dr. Robert Sinnott, Co-Ordinator of VVI, which assisted Ms. Apaza Machaka with her case, today praised the courage of the complainant. “This form of discrimination is so commonplace, but only a fraction of those affected by it actually stand up for their rights by making a legal complaint,” he said. “It needs to be realised by all service-providers that they are obliged to accommodate guide-dog-owners, and not discriminate against them, or else, they are liable to face the consequences.”

Landmark Case

The adjudicator awarded Ms. Apaza Machaka €2,000 to be paid by the respondent in compensation for the way she was treated, but significantly, that Scotco (RoI) Limited have to have their new disability awareness training programme checked by a “disability rights organisation.”

In Ireland, these organisations are known as Disabled Persons’ Representative Organisations (DPROs), or Disabled Persons’ Organisations (DPOs), and they are a relatively new phenomenon here. They must be founded with advancement of Human Rights at their core, and they must be led, directed, run, and mostly membered by disabled people, ourselves.

Traditionally, in Ireland, the brand-name disability service providers have claimed the mantle of being “representative.” However, in its clarification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which Ireland ratified in 2018, the UN Committee has made it clear that the only representative organisations regarding disability are DPROs, and that disability service providers may have a conflict of interest by putting their organisational interests before Human Rights in their advocacy.

As such, according to the UN Committee, disability-proofing requires that DPROs have their views and opinions prioritised over those of all other organisations, and be closely consulted and actively involved on a uniquely deep level in all disability-related consultations. Indeed, even disability service-providers should closely consult with and actively involve DPROs in their own advocacy relating to the CRPD.

“This decision brings Ireland that bit closer to practical recognition of the legal standing of DPROs as the experts in disability, and to compliance with Ireland’s obligations under the CRPD,” said Dr. Sinnott.

Voice of Vision Impairment is Ireland’s national DPRO with specific focus on the rights and needs of people with visual impairments (i.e., those who are blind or partially sighted).

The decision can be read in full at:

Submissions & observations

Position Paper on Universal Design for New DART Fleet

Voice of Vision Impairment, JUN 2022


DART stands for Dublin Area Rapid Transit, and is the name given to overground urban and suburban rail service in the Greater Dublin Area.

VVI compiled this position paper in the Spring and early Summer of 2022 in response to Irish Rail’s consultation on a design for a new DART fleet.

This document is complementary to our other policy documents, in particular, our Accessible Communications Policy, and our Policy on Accessible Public Spaces

1. Interior

1.1. Consistency

There is a need for consistency from carriage to carriage. Also, there is a need for consistency vis-à-vis front and back carriages vs. the rest of the train. In other words, the layout should be identical in all carriages, no matter which way they are facing.

1.2. Priority Seating Signs

The current signage (embedded in the windows of commuter trains) announcing Priority seating for blind and pregnant people is very useful and needs to be replicated in the new fleet.

1.3. Handrails

Bright yellow handrails are essential – i.e., not green, blue, or any other colour. The standard on Dublin Bus, Luas, and currently on Irish Rail, is very good because yellow reflects light while also being very distinctive.

Yellow vertical handrails on Siemens 81xx Series Dart
Photo (above) of yellow vertical handrails on Siemens 81xx Series DART.
Yellow vertical and horizontal handrails on Tokyu Car 85xx Series Dart
Photo (above) of yellow vertical and horizontal handrails on Tokyu Car 85xx Series DART.

The vertical handrail from the floor to the ceiling when one boards the train is very useful. This is like the Luas or Iarnród Éireann Diesel Commuter trains and essential for people to maintain their balance when no seating is available, and need to be easily visible to visually impaired people who have some sight.

Yellow vertical and horizontal handrails on CAF 29xxx Series DMU.
Photo (above) of yellow vertical and horizontal handrails on CAF 29xxx Series DMU.
Yellow vertical and horizontal handrails on Siemens Berlin U-Bahn
Photo (above) of yellow vertical and horizontal handrails on Siemens Berlin U-Bahn train.
Yellow vertical handrails on an Alstom Luas tram
Photo (above) of yellow vertical handrails on an Alstom Luas tram.

Vertical handrail attached to the ‘wall’ on either side of the door: We are very impressed with this as there is currently nothing to hold onto when boarding or exiting trains in Ireland, so this is very welcome. Because there is nothing to hold onto, currently, passengers have to lean against the door-jam.

Handrails on seating

These are handy for shuffling around the corner to the aisle; and work well to assist a passenger standing; and, of course, for other passengers to hold onto for balance while walking through the train. The thinner version is easier to grip for those with less hand muscle or dexterity. Also, the rails should protrude less into the aisle, in case of passenger collision and should also be present at the top of seats, allowing more passengers (e.g., from behind the seat) to have the potential for easy-to-reach holding.

In general, the more opportunities for holding onto a rail etc., the better. A blind person cannot see where such rails are, and so it cannot be presumed that we will know where to reach. The more options we have in our close vicinity, the better.

Seating loop handrail & vertical handrail to ceiling CAF 29xxx Series DMU
Photo (above) of seating loop handrail & vertical handrail to ceiling CAF 29xxx Series DMU.

1.4. Accessible Door Buttons

The door buttons need to be accessible: including raised high contrast print, as well as durable Standard English Braille. Currently, the braille “c” and “o” on commuter train door buttons and raised door open/close arrows is good practice.

Accessible door open and close buttons on CAF 29xxx Series DMU
Photo (above) of accessible door open and close buttons on CAF 29xxx Series DMU.

Regarding clarity of braille, we are very impressed with the definition of braille signage on the refurbished De Dietrich Enterprise train between Belfast and Dublin.

Braille signage for ‘Dryer’ on Enterprise De Dietrich cross border carriage
Photo (above) of braille signage for ‘Dryer’ on Enterprise De Dietrich cross border carriage.
Braille signage for ‘emergency intercom’ to speak to train crew on Enterprise De Dietrich carriage
Photo (above) of braille signage for ‘emergency intercom’ on Enterprise De Dietrich carriage.

1.5. Accessible Help Buttons

Similarly, the help/intercom facility needs to have the same raised print and braille signage for visually impaired passengers.

An intercom with ‘SOS’ in raised print and braille on Iarnród Éireann/NI Railways Enterprise cross border refurbished De Dietrich carriage
Photo (above) of intercom with ‘SOS’ in raised print and braille on Iarnród Éireann/NI Railways Enterprise cross border refurbished De Dietrich carriage.

1.6. Accessible Carriage ID

On trains, the identification number for each respective carriage should be accessible on the back of every seat, beside every door, and on every toilet door. Accessible, in this respect, means raised print letters in high contrast, and Standard English Braille.

Dublin Bus stop #1417 with raised numbers in vertical format, braille and contrasting colours
Photo (above) of Dublin Bus stop #1417 with raised numbers, braille and contrasting colours.

1.7. Questioning the Concept of “Family Seating”

It is proposed that there be designated “family seating” areas on carriages. The practicality of such a feature as a designated family area is questionable. Rather than being in the best planning tradition of envisaging normal or worst-case scenarios, it appears to be based on someone’s imaging of an ideal journey, perhaps on a lovely sunny Sunday afternoon etc. Even then, the idea that there would only be space for one family per carriage (with two bicycles only), appears to be tokenistic, at best.

The more area designations in a carriage, the more confusing for passengers, and all designations are likely to be weakened as a result. In particular, we’d be worried that the unnecessary and impractical family designation would reduce the priority seating for vulnerable passengers, and weaken the acceptance of such designated areas by passengers more generally.

Keeping designations as simple as possible (i.e., priority seating and wheelchair areas closest to the doors) means that consistency (1.1 above) is much more achievable and adoptable.

Also, with a family designation area, as currently planned, when the carriage is reversed on a return journey, a visually impaired person will not necessarily know which side is family, and which side is general. There is no need for such confusion.

A realistic practice Family-friendly approach is currently operating with the use of opposing seating as currently in place on the Dart and used (with table) on intercity and commuter trains.

1.8. Airplane style seating

As with commuter trains and inter-city trains, a mixture of airplane-style seating and opposing seating would retain the family-friendly element, while meaning that there is more seating for all passengers.

There is currently a proposal for a small shelf beside the window on the new DART fleet. The curved edges are useful, but there is the possibility of snagging for those unfamiliar with its presence. As such, we would propose a flip-up version as one alternative, or else, as on one of the diesel commuter trains, which has a cup holder for 2 cups just under the window, which doesn’t take up as much space.

Otherwise, if airport-style seating is mixed in with the opposing seats (as on current inter-city and commuter trains), the flip-up shelves at the back of seats (as currently used) would be viable.

Many passengers like to be able to put their elbow against the frame of the window to rest on their journey, and we would suggest that this feature be retained in any new designs.

1.9. Tip-up seats

Two tip-up seats at the wheelchair space close to the door is also best practice. From a balance perspective, finding a seat as soon as possible when you board a Dart is critical in case you are thrown when the train starts moving. We realise that there are planned to be 2 tip-up seats at the wheelchair area and are supportive of this.

1.10. Wheelchair Spaces

On ICR trains, such as those operating to Galway, Tralee, Rosslare etc, one carriage on each 4 carriage set has room for 2 wheelchairs (one left and one right). We propose that this system be designed for every carriage in the new DART design.

While wall mounted signage should work for designation of wheelchair spaces, other passengers often do not or cannot read it, and either park themselves or their luggage there. Accordingly, use of the Dublin Bus standard floor signage of a white wheelchair on a blue background should also be used to help to prevent any confusion, albeit with the use of carpet rather than smooth flooring (with Dublin Bus using the latter).

Disability & wheelchair area on TFI Alexander Dennis (ADL) hybrid bus
Photo (above) of disability and wheelchair area on TFI Alexander Dennis (ADL) hybrid bus.

It appears that on the new DART fleet, Alstom have some concerns about passengers congregating in this area who are only travelling 2 or 3 stops and thus blocking the flow for a wheelchair passenger to board. A useful mediation for this is found on Luas trams, where an announcement of ‘passengers, please move down the tram to allow other passengers to board’ helps with the onboard dispersal of passengers.

1.11. bicycle storage

Transport For London (TFL) does not allow bicycles on its trains because of risk of self-combustion. Clearly, the combustibility of e-bikes and e-scooters needs to be investigated before they are allowed onto passenger-trains.

Also, having space for two bicycles for each carriage appears to be more trouble than it’s worth. It reduces seating space and consistency standards, while only appearing to be tokenistic in terms of “active modes”. A specific holding space for multiple bicycles (even if only a dedicated 6-m long carriage) would be practical for lone cyclists and not interfere with other passengers.

1.12. USB ports for charging

The 2 USB ports between the 2 seats is a good location and ensures no wires going across the other passenger as it currently the case on Intercity ICR and Mark4 trains where the usb ports are in the wall of the train. The metal trunking covering these will ensure they won’t get damaged.

We recommend under-seat, rather than shoulder-height, positioning of the USB ports because it is easier to access, especially when one is seated, and one is less likely to be annoying another passenger in plugging and unplugging etc.

USB and 3 pin plug charging point in wall on Rotem Hyundai 22xxx Series ICR.
Photo (above) of USB and 3 pin plug charging point in wall on Rotem Hyundai 22xxx Series ICR.

1.13. Space under Seating

We are very impressed with the proposed ample storage for bags etc under the seating, as per model we reviewed in March (2022), at the Irish Rail Works in Inchicore. Such space is also good space for a guide-dog. From a visually impaired perspective, it’s all about keeping the aisles clear for all passengers and ensuring no-one stands on the dog etc.

The regular priority seating on ICR trains backs onto a luggage rack and are certainly a tight fit for a guide dog. Indeed, this means the guide-dog has to rest in the middle of the aisle, where passengers, including visually impaired passengers can step on them or trip over them.

2. Doors

2.1. Automatic Door-opening

In order for visually impaired people to independently locate the doors from the inside or outside, there needs to be automatic door opening for doors on the alighting side. This best practice is currently operating in London (since the 1980s), and in Berlin (since the start of Covid. Opening of some doors will not suffice, as many visually impaired passengers will not know whether they are standing on the platform near the front or the rear of a stationary train, and those on the inside may not know on which side of the carriage to get off (i.e., find the door opening button).

An arguments that automatic door-opening may be uncomfortable for on-board passengers is relatively frivolous, especially when contrasted with the right of visually impaired people to independently board trains as per universal design. The principle of Human Rights being more important than aesthetic convenience is paramount.

2.2. High Contrast Doors

There is a need for high contrast colouring of doors. The current proposal of grey doors on a white train does not meet this need. Best practice can be seen on the current commuter fleet, where white doors are contrasted with a dark green carriage.

High contrast colouring of doors on CAF 29xxx series DMU.
Photo (above) of high contrast colouring of doors on CAF 29xxx series DMU.

2.3. Two-way bleeps, with distinctive closing sound

The proposed feature of bleeps to represent the open carriage door – and bleeps that can be heard from the outside and inside – is very welcome.

3. Miscellaneous

3.1. External Livery

The current external livery on commuter trains where the engine is yellow, and the train is dark green, is what we consider to be best practice.

High contrast yellow driver’s cab on Siemens 81xx and Tokyu Car 85xx series DART.
Photo (above) of yellow Driver’s cab on Siemens 81xx and Tokyu Car 85xx Series DART.

3.2. Visual Display of PIS Signage

Visual display of public announcement systems should be in accordance with all EU Regulations and Directives.

3.3. Audio Announcements

At en route stations, the next station should be announced prior to arriving at, and on arrival at, that station. When the door is open, announcement should be made of the next stop and the final stop, and this announcement should be two-way, audible from the platform as well as from the train.

3.4. Positioning of Speakers

We note that speakers are planned for the roof. However, speakers are needed closer to the ear-level of passengers. In terms of fleet consistency, these could be at a priority seating or flip-up seat adjacent to a wheelchair dock.

At least, there should be an intercom beside the door and under the horizontal handrail in the wheelchair area between the tip up seats, as proposed. Of course this is coach c or carriage 3 but having intercoms on the right side of the 4 doors in each carriage is a valuable safety net to contact the Driver in the event of the next stop audio announcement system not working etc.

Intercom to the right of door on a 5xxx Series Alstom Luas tram
Photo (above) of intercom to the right of door on a 5xxx Series Alstom Luas tram.

3.5. Accessible Digital Signage

Without prejudice to any other measure indicated in this or other VVI position documents, the relevant statutory bodies should explore the use of accessible digital signage with regard to the new DART design, closely consulting and actively engaging with DPO’s (including their prioritisation and distinguishing in such consultations).

There are various possible mechanisms for accessible digital signage, including Navilens, which is dependent on a smartphone camera being able to decode physical tags which are strategically placed and which can make detailed information, including real-time updates, accessible to visually impaired and other people.

Test Navilens tag on glass panel facing down CAF 29xxx Series DMU.
Photo (above) of test Navilens tag on glass panel facing down CAF 29xxx Series DMU.

Where relevant, the information provided by ADS must be realtime or otherwise adequately updated, as appropriate.

3.51. Example of Possible ADS on Trains

Onboard tags could provide information on:

  • Carriage numbers
  • Seat-numbers and location of priority seating
  • Information on stops
  • Emergency information
  • The location of toilets
  • The location and use of buttons
Newsletter Submissions & observations

Legal Opinion for VVI as a DPO – for all DPOs

Date: 27 July 2021

What constitutes a Disabled Persons Organisation under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

To:  Voice of Vision Impairment (
From: Michael Lynn S.C. and Philip Reynor Solicitor: Eversheds Sutherland

  1. Background
  2. Summary
  3. VVI Concerns
  4. Ireland and the CRPD
  5. Optional Protocol to the CRPD
  6. Key provisions of the CRPD in respect of DPOs: Articles 4(3) and 35(4)
  7. What is a ‘Disabled Persons Organisation’?
  8. The scope of Article 4(3)
  9. Article 33
  10. Articles 4 and 33 as linked with other provisions of the CRPD
  11. Conclusion

I. Background

  1. Voice of Vision Impairment (‘VVI’) is a voluntary all-Ireland organisation established to campaign for the needs and rights of disabled people, with particular experience in, and focus on, the area of persons with a visual impairment (‘VIPs’). VVI was set up specifically as a national Disabled Persons Organisation (‘DPO’) in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (‘CRPD’) in July 2019.
  2. We use the phrase “disabled people” rather than “people with disabilities,” as the former reflects the ‘social model’ of disability rather than the so-called ‘medical model’. The social model has as its basis that disability is caused by the way society is organised, rather than by a person’s impairment or difference. It looks at ways of removing barriers that restrict life choices for disabled people, so enabling them to be independent and equal in society. The so-called medical model categorises people as disabled because they have an impairment or difference, which may or may not be receptive to medical or other treatment. Many disabled rights activists believe this medical model focuses on impairment rather than need, creating low expectations that impede the achievement of independence, choice and control.
  3. Ireland is due to publish its first State Report on its implementation of the CRPD this year. It published a draft report for the purpose of consultation on 3rd December 2020. Several organisations, including VVI, which describe themselves as national DPOs have come together to work as a coalition on a shadow report.
  4. VVI has raised a query in relation to what constitutes a DPO under the provisions of the CRPD, specifically with regard to the provision of services to disabled persons, and what role should a DPO play in policy making?
  5. VVI would like a legal opinion on the interpretation of a DPO under the CRPD.

II. Summary

  1. DPOs play a central role under the CRPD and, as the authority on disability, should be considered as the only representative organisations when it comes to disability.
  2. Organisations of disabled people (i.e. DPOs) can only be those that are led, directed and governed by disabled people. A clear majority of the membership of a DPO should be recruited from among disabled people themselves.
  3. The membership of a DPO must be open to anyone from their designated impairment grouping(s) and, importantly, at least half of a DPO’s employees should be disabled.
  4. The CRPD clearly establishes that DPOs must be afforded the opportunity to participate and, in that regard, should not only be closely consulted but must also be actively involved and prioritised by States parties as the only representative organisations.
  5. It is particularly important from the perspective of participation, that the term ‘representative organisation’ in the context of the CRPD is understood to mean a DPO and is not broadened in scope to include non-DPOs (such as service providers).
  6. The essence of a DPO is that it is composed of disabled persons, and led by them. It is to be distinguished from a service provider. Nor is it simply a campaign group. A DPO is an organisation owned and led by a clear majority of disabled persons, which thereby ensures their full participation, understanding and promotion of their interests.
  7. Under the CRPD, a DPO has an acknowledged role to play in public consultation and decision-making. This involvement extends to the negotiation, development, and drafting of policy and legislation by States parties. The pooled expertise and collective agency of disabled people is extremely important.
  8. States parties should systematically and openly approach, consult and involve, in a meaningful and timely manner, DPOs. This requires providing access to all relevant information, including the websites of public bodies, through accessible digital formats and reasonable accommodation when required, such as the provision of sign language interpreters, Easy Read text and plain language, Braille and tactile communication.
  9. Permanent consultation mechanisms with DPOs should be established, including round tables, participatory dialogues, public hearings, surveys and online consultations, respecting their diversity and autonomy.
  10. The Optional Protocol is a vital aspect of the CRPD as it provides an important advocacy tool for people concerned with violations of their rights. Despite the Department of Justice and Equality stating in 2015 that Ireland intends “to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol”, this has yet to occur.
  11. The failure of the Government to ratify the OP-CPRD places a significant barrier to disabled people who wish to complain to the UN if their rights are violated and weakens the effect of the CRPD in Ireland.

III. VVI Concerns

  1. VVI believes that rights-based organisations and service providers should be kept separate in order to remain objective and avoid conflicts of interest, particularly where there is State funding and/or consultation involved.
  2. VVI is concerned that the classification ‘DPO’ may be being wrongly extended to service providers who are not DPOs. This may have implications for which organisations should be prioritised by the State as DPOs for the purpose of compliance with the CRPD.
  3. VVI is concerned that it itself is not being adequately recognised, or appropriately prioritised, as a DPO. Under the CRPD, a DPO has an acknowledged role to play in public consultation and decision-making, so VVI should be facilitated in carrying out such functions. It has provided several examples of the obstacles it can face in contributing to public schemes which impact on VIPs, including the following three.
  4. (i) VVI was asked in November 2020 if it was interested in being consulted on the design for a new railway station in Waterford. It said that it was, but was then given no role as a service provider was preferred. (ii) VVI has raised five issues in respect of the National Transport Authority’s Bus Connects plan for a re-design of bus routes in the Greater Dublin Area but these, it says, are being ignored. (iii) The Public Participation Network (‘PPN’) is currently one of the few ways that DPOs have of engaging with local authorities. Current PPN guidelines provide that all members are equal which fails to recognise the special position of DPOs and the support they need. For example, requests to revert the PPN Handbook to original braille have, VVI says, been ignored with deference, instead, being given to the advice of a disability service-provider which claimed such provision was unnecessary.

IV. Ireland and the CRPD

  1. The CRPD is a landmark legal instrument aimed at ensuring the protection and vindication of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of disabled persons. It forms the cornerstone of an international framework established to guide national policy-making and legislation, and international cooperation, for building an inclusive society, and fostering disability-inclusive development. It has been described as bringing about a paradigm shift such that disabled persons are, as they should be, respected as active subjects with equal rights, capable of taking their own decisions and contributing to society, rather than objects of treatment, charity or other support.
  2. The aim of the CRPD is to guide and support State parties in the formulation and enforcement of their legislation, strategies, policies and programmes, so as to promote the full empowerment, equality, and inclusion of disabled persons.
  3. As expanded upon below, one of the principles at the centre of the CRPD is the fundamental role to be given to DPOs, in order to ensure the effective participation of disabled persons in public life. This participation includes not only the involvement of DPOs in the implementation and monitoring of the CRPD but also aims to guarantee that disabled persons are fully and decisively involved in the making of decisions that affect their lives and rights at local, national and international levels. This involvement extends to the negotiation, development, and drafting of policy and legislation by States parties. The pooled expertise and collective agency of disabled people is extremely important.
  4. The CRPD was adopted by the United Nations in 2006. The European Union acceded to the CRPD through Council Decision 2010/48/EC, formally adopted on 26 November 2009. The instrument of ratification on behalf of the EU was then deposited in December 2010. This was the first occasion that the EU became a party to an international human rights treaty.
  5. In 2007, Ireland signed the CRPD and shortly thereafter it declared that as a dualist state it was required to be in a position to meet the obligations assumed under the terms of an international agreement before bringing it into force domestically. This meant that in order to ratify the CRPD, Ireland would first have to amend a range of its legislation. With the exception of the passage of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015, which has still not been brought into force, little was done in this regard by the government from 2007 to 2018, with the dualist argument being employed to excuse the delay in ratification of the CRPD. In 2015 the Department of Justice and Equality published its ‘Roadmap to Ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’. This document was produced eight years after the signing of the CRPD by Ireland and identified large volumes of legislative provisions as non- compliant with the CRPD. A Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016 (‘the 2016 Bill’) was introduced with the purpose of amending a range of legislation so that Ireland could ratify the CRPD.
  6. On 20 March 2018 – with the vast majority of the required legislative amendments remaining outstanding – Ireland finally ratified the CRPD, even though the 2016 Bill has yet to be enacted. It was amended by the Select Committee on 30 January 2019 and lapsed with the dissolution of the Dáil and Seanad on 14 January 2020. In the Legislation Programme Autumn Session 2020, the status of the Bill was listed as follows: ‘Revised heads in preparation’.
  7. At long last, a timeline has now been published by the government for the commencement and implementation of another important piece of legislation, the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 (as amended), which should now be operational by June 2022.
  8. Having ratified the CRPD in 2018, Ireland has an obligation to report periodically to the UN on its implementation of the Convention. It must write a report for the CRPD Committee every four years, and answer questions raised by the Committee.
  9. The Government must also ensure there is an independent organisation to monitor how the CRPD is being put into practice across the country. This is being done by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘IHREC’). This process is referred to in the CRPD as the ‘Independent Mechanism’.
  10. The purpose of the Independent Mechanism is to monitor the operation of the CRPD and write reports to the CRPD Committee. The CRPD provides that disabled people must be a part of this monitoring process as this ensures that a clear picture of the lives of disabled people is presented.

V. Optional Protocol to the CRPD

  1. The Optional Protocol to the CRPD (GA resolution A/RES/61/106) (‘OP- CRPD’) – which entered into force at the same time as the Convention – establishes two additional mandates for the CRPD Committee:
    (i) the receipt and examination of individual complaints; and
    (ii) the undertaking of inquiries in the case of reliable evidence of grave and systematic violations of the CRPD.
  2. This is a vital aspect of the CRPD as it provides an important advocacy tool for people concerned with violations of their rights.
  3. Complaints may only be communicated against a State party that has ratified or acceded to the OP-CRPD, and only upon the exhaustion of all available and effective domestic remedies. Ratification of the OP-CRPD by Ireland would allow the CRPD Committee to receive, consider and provide its views and recommendations in relation to alleged violations by Ireland of CRPD rights as communicated by disabled persons or those acting on their behalf.
  4. Despite the Department of Justice and Equality stating in 2015 that Ireland intends “to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the same time as the Convention itself is being ratified”, this did not occur upon ratification of the CRPD and Ireland has yet to ratify the OP-CRPD (see: ‘Roadmap to Ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’; at p.13).
  5. In relation to the decision not to ratify the OP-CRPD, the Department of Justice and Equality stated:

“The matter of signing the optional protocol will be reviewed and further considered following completion of the first reporting cycle under the Convention. Due to the variability and uncertainty of the reporting cycle we are not in a position to give an exact date at this juncture.”

  1. That report was due to be published two years after the ratification of the CRPD by Ireland, i.e. on 20 April 2020, but remains outstanding to date. The failure of the Government to ratify the OP-CPRD places a significant barrier to disabled people who wish to complain to the UN if their rights are violated and weakens the effect of the CRPD in Ireland.
  2. Nevertheless, in addition to the Government, the Independent Mechanism and civil society organisations, disabled people and their representative organisations can send their own reports to the CRPD Committee. The CRPD Committee will then examine all these reports and revert to the Government in relation to how it can better protect the rights of disabled people.

VI. Key provisions of the CRPD in respect of DPOs: Articles 4(3) and 35(4)

  1. Article 4(3) of the CRPD, headed ‘General obligations’, states (emphasis added):

“In the development and implementation of legislation and policies to implement the present Convention, and in other decision-making processes concerning issues relating to persons with disabilities, States parties shall closely consult with and actively involve persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities, through their representative organizations.”

  1. What constitutes a “representative organization” for the purposes of the CRPD? In order to provide guidance for States, in 2018 the CRPD Committee published General Comment No.7 on the participation of disabled persons, including disabled children, through their representative organisations, in the implementation and monitoring of the Convention. From the outset, when discussing the definition of “representative organizations,” the wording of paragraph 10 of General Comment No.7 (as set out in full in paragraph 49 below) makes it clear that the phrase “representative organizations” is another expression which means “organizations of persons with disabilities” or DPOs. Indeed, this is made clear throughout General Comment No.7 (see, for example, paras. 5 to 12, and 16). By defining a representative organization specifically as a DPO, it clearly intended that DPOs are to be the only representative organisations for the purpose of disability. As such, service providers and other non-DPOs are not to be considered as “representative organizations” for the purposes of the CRPD.
  2. In addition to providing for consultation with disabled persons through their representative organisations, or DPOs, in the implementation of legislation and policies, Article 33(3) of the CRPD ‘National implementation and monitoring’ provides for participation in monitoring compliance with the CPRD (emphasis added):

“Civil society, in particular persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, shall be involved and participate fully in the monitoring process.”

  1. It is important to note that Article 33(3) refers to ‘participation’. Similarly, Article 4(3) states that disabled persons should not only be “closely consult[ed]” but also be “actively involve[d]” by States parties “through their representative organisations [i.e. DPOs]”. This implies that “active involvement” is a form of participation that is something more than mere consultation. In this respect and for the avoidance of any doubt, it should be noted that where the CPRD refers to ‘representative organisations’ it is referring to DPOs and not, for example, service providers or other non-DPOs. It is particularly important from the perspective of participation, that the term ‘representative organisation’ in the context of CPRD is understood to mean a DPO only and is not broadened in scope to include non- DPOs.
  2. Participation in public life, as both a principle and a human right, is well established in a number of international human rights treaties such as Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 5(c) of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Article 7 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and Articles 12 and 23(1) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  3. One of the purposes of General Comment No.7 is to “clarify States parties’ obligations under articles 4(3) and 33(3) and their implementation …”. It outlines in paragraph 7 some of the ways in which States parties can fulfil these obligations, by granting financial or other assistance to DPOs.
  4. Whilst a UN Committee’s General Comment is only of persuasive force in how one properly interprets the Convention article(s) to which it refers, General Comments are nevertheless of potential importance; a General Comment by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was cited by the Supreme Court in NHV v. Minister for Justice [2018] 1 I.R. 246 in its discussion on the right to seek work under the Constitution.
  5. The CRPD’s Committee’s General Comment No. 7 states that the “effective and meaningful participation of persons with disabilities, through their representative organizations, is … at the heart of the Convention.” It continues:

4. Often, persons with disabilities are not consulted in the decision-making about matters relating to or affecting their lives, with decisions continuing to be made on their behalf. Consultation with persons with disabilities has been acknowledged as important in the last few decades, thanks to the emergence of movements of persons with disabilities demanding recognition of their human rights and their role in determining those rights. The motto “nothing about us without us” resonates with the philosophy and history of the disability rights movement, which relies on the principle of meaningful participation.

5. Persons with disabilities still face significant attitudinal, physical, legal, economic, social and communication barriers to participate in public life. Before the entry into force of the Convention, the views of persons with disabilities were dismissed in favour of those of third-party representatives, such as organizations “for” persons with disabilities.

  1. Paragraphs 8 and 9 of the General Comment note the shortcomings in many States.

8. The Committee, however, continues to observe an important gap between the goals and the spirit of articles 4(3) and 33(3) and the degree to which they have been implemented. This is due, among other things, to the absence of meaningful consultation with and involvement of persons with disabilities, through their representative organizations, in the development and implementation of policies and programmes.

9. States parties should acknowledge the positive impact on decision-making processes and the necessity of involving and ensuring the participation of persons with disabilities, through their representative organizations, in such processes, notably because of their lived experiences and knowledge of the rights to be implemented. States parties should also consider the general principles of the Convention in all measures taken for its implementation and monitoring, and in advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its goals.

  1. When Article 33(3) is read in conjunction with Article 4(3), it becomes clear that disabled people through DPOs must not only be involved in the monitoring framework of Article 33(2), but also the focal point and coordination mechanism of 33(1). In order to facilitate, and make effective, this intended involvement, the State may be obliged to work on building capacity within civil society to ensure that DPOs have the ability to participate meaningfully in the process of implementation and monitoring.
  2. In relation to the Government’s report to the CRPD Committee, it should involve disabled people through DPOs in assessing how it is carrying out its obligations under the CRPD (see Article 35(4) of the CRPD).
  3. Moreover, the central place given to DPOs by the CRPD implies that States parties need to be rigorous in determining what organisation is a DPO and what is not. Paragraph 10 of General Comment No. 7 confirms this, stating:

10. The involvement and participation of persons with disabilities through “representative organizations”, or organizations of persons with disabilities, is inherent in both articles 4(3) and 33(3). For proper implementation, it is important for States parties and the relevant stakeholders to define the scope of organizations of persons with disabilities and recognize the different types that often exist.

  1. In Ireland, the State’s primary response to Articles 4(3) and 33(3) appears to have been the Disability Participation and Consultation Network (‘DPCN’), which neither prioritises DPOs nor even distinguishes them from non-DPOs, and comprises a majority of service providers. This does not seem to give DPOs the sort of preferential position and role that is envisaged by the CRPD. The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities published its Initial Report under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Ireland) (December, 2020) which states that “This [DPC] Network is comprised primarily of Disabled Persons Organisations”. While the DPCN does have some DPO members, it appears that a significant majority of its members, including its organising member, Inclusion Ireland, are service providers which would not qualify as DPOs for the purposes of the CRPD. Moreover, there are now over 70 members of the DPCN which renders “close consultation” with DPOs as mandated by Article 4.3 of the CRPD (see para. 57 below) impractical and doubtful.

VII. What is a ‘Disabled Persons Organisation’?

  1. The essence of a DPO is that it is composed of disabled persons, and led by them. It is to be distinguished from a service provider. Nor is it simply a campaign group. It is an organisation owned and led by disabled persons, which thereby ensures their full participation, understanding and promotion of their interests.
  2. A distinction is made between an ‘organisation of persons with disabilities’ (i.e. representative organisations or DPOs), and other ‘civil society organisations’ (‘CSO’) and ‘organisations “for” persons with disabilities’ (‘OFPD’).
  3. Paragraph 11 of General Comment No. 7 refers to some distinguishing characteristics of DPOs. It states (underlining added):

“The Committee considers that organizations of persons with disabilities should be rooted, committed to and fully respect the principles and rights recognized in the Convention. They can only be those that are led, directed and governed by persons with disabilities. A clear majority of their membership should be recruited among persons with disabilities themselves. Organizations of women with disabilities, children with disabilities and persons living with HIV/AIDS are organizations of persons with disabilities under the Convention. Organizations of persons with disabilities have certain characteristic aspects, including the fact that:

(a) They are established predominantly with the aim of collectively acting, expressing, promoting, pursuing and/or defending the rights of persons with disabilities and should be generally recognized as such;

(b) They employ, are represented by, entrust or specifically nominate/appoint persons with disabilities themselves;

(c) They are not affiliated, in the majority of cases, to any political party and are independent from public authorities and any other non-governmental organizations of which they might be part/members of;

(d) They may represent one or more constituencies based on actual or perceived impairment or can be open to membership of all persons with disabilities;

(e) They represent groups of persons with disabilities reflecting the diversity of their backgrounds (in terms of, for example, sex, gender, race, age, or migrant or refugee status). They can include constituencies based on transversal identities (for example, children, women or indigenous people with disabilities) and comprise members with various impairments;

(f) They can be local, national, regional or international in scope;

(g) They can operate as individual organizations, coalitions or cross-disability or umbrella organizations of persons with disabilities, seeking to provide a collaborative and coordinated voice for persons with disabilities in their interactions with, among others, public authorities, international organizations and private entities.

  1. The phrase “clear majority” in para. 11 implies something more substantial than a simple majority of 51:49. It suggests that a DPO should be structured in such a way that it is clearly led and governed by disabled people, not just technically so. So, the structure taken as a whole must ensure such leadership and governance.
  2. The CRPD Committee draws a very important distinction between DPOs and other civil society organisations, and emphasises strongly the special place of DPOs, and the priority they should be given in ensuring their participation in proposed legislation and initiatives aimed at assisting disabled persons (emphasis added).

13. Organizations of persons with disabilities should be distinguished from organizations “for” persons with disabilities, which provide services and/or advocate on behalf of persons with disabilities, which, in practice, may result in a conflict of interests in which such organizations prioritize their purpose as private entities over the rights of persons with disabilities. States parties should give particular importance to the views of persons with disabilities, through their representative organizations, support the capacity and empowerment of such organizations and ensure that priority is given to ascertaining their views in decision-making processes.

14. A distinction should also be made between organizations of persons with disabilities and civil society organizations. The term “civil society organization” comprises different kinds of organizations, including research organizations/institutes, organizations of service providers and other private stakeholders. Organizations of persons with disabilities are a specific type of civil society organization. They may be part of a mainstream umbrella civil society organization and/or coalitions that do not necessarily advocate specifically for the rights of persons with disabilities, but can support in mainstreaming their rights in the human rights agenda. In accordance with article 33(3), all civil society organizations, including organizations of persons with disabilities, have a role to play in monitoring the Convention. States parties should give priority to the views of organizations of persons with disabilities when addressing issues related to persons with disabilities, and develop frameworks to request civil society organizations and other stakeholders to consult and involve organizations of persons with disabilities in their work related to the rights enshrined in the Convention and other topics, such as non-discrimination, peace and environmental rights.

VIII. The scope of Article 4(3)

  1. Article 4(3) requires close consultation and active involvement with disabled persons, through their DPOs, in legal and regulatory frameworks and procedures across all levels and branches of Government. The involvement of DPOs should be a mandatory step prior to the approval of laws, regulations and policies, whether mainstream or disability specific. Therefore, consultations should begin in the early stages and provide an input to the final product in all decision-making processes. Consultations should include organizations representing the wide diversity of disabled persons, at the local, national, regional and international levels (para. 15, Gen. Comm. No. 7).
  2. The legal obligation of States parties to ensure consultations with DPOs encompasses access to public decision-making spaces and also other areas of research, universal design, partnerships, delegated power and citizen control (para. 17, Gen. Comm. No. 7).
  3. The phrase “concerning issues relating to persons with disabilities”, as referred to in Article 4(3), covers the full range of legislative, administrative and other measures that may directly or indirectly impact the rights of disabled persons. It includes decision-making processes, such as general laws and the public budget or disability-specific laws, which might have an impact on their lives (para. 18, Gen. Comm. No. 7). In cases of dispute about the direct or indirect impact of the measures under discussion, it falls to the public authorities of the States parties to prove that the issue under discussion would not have a disproportionate effect on disabled persons and, therefore, that no consultation is required (para. 19, Gen. Comm. No. 7).
  4. To “closely consult with and actively involve” disabled persons through DPOs is an obligation under international human rights law that requires the recognition of every person’s legal capacity to take part in decision-making processes based on their personal autonomy and self-determination (para. 21, Gen. Comm. No. 7). States parties should systematically and openly approach, consult and involve, in a meaningful and timely manner, DPOs. This requires providing access to all relevant information, including the websites of public bodies, through accessible digital formats and reasonable accommodation when required, such as the provision of sign language interpreters, Easy Read text and plain language, Braille and tactile communication. Open consultations provide disabled persons with access to all the spaces of public decision-making, on an equal basis with others, including national funds and all the relevant public decision-making bodies relevant to the implementation and monitoring of the CRPD (para. 22, Gen. Comm. No. 7; see, also, paras. 43, 45 and 46).
    Public authorities should give due consideration and priority to the opinions and views of DPOs when addressing issues directly related to disabled persons. Public authorities leading decision-making processes have a duty to inform DPOs of the outcomes of such processes, including an explicit explanation in an understandable format of the findings, considerations and reasoning of decisions on how their views were considered and why (para. 23, Gen. Comm. No. 7; see, also, paras. 47, 48 and 49).
  5. Public authorities should give due consideration and priority to the opinions and views of DPOs when addressing issues directly related to disabled persons. Public authorities leading decision-making processes have a duty to inform DPOs of the outcomes of such processes, including an explicit explanation in an understandable format of the findings, considerations and reasoning of decisions on how their views were considered and why (para. 23, Gen. Comm. No. 7; see, also, paras. 47, 48 and 49).
  6. “Full and effective participation”, as set out in Art. 3(c), requires that States parties facilitate participation and consult with disabled persons representing the wide diversity in impairments. By guaranteeing the participation of DPOs, disabled persons will be able to better identify and point out measures that could either advance or hinder their rights, which ultimately yields better outcomes for such decision-making processes. Full and effective participation should be understood as a process, not as an individual one-time event (para. 28, Gen. Comm. No. 7). Full and effective participation can also be a transformative tool for social change, and promote agency and empowerment of individuals. The involvement of DPOs in all forms of decision-making strengthens the ability of disabled persons to advocate and negotiate, and empowers them to more solidly express their views, realize their aspirations and reinforce their united and diverse voices. States parties should ensure the full and effective participation of disabled persons, through their DPOs, as a measure to achieve their inclusion in society and combat discrimination against them. States parties that ensure full and effective participation and engage with DPOs improve transparency and accountability, making them responsive to the requirements of such persons (para. 33, Gen. Comm. No. 7).1
  7. A range of obligations, such as the provision of funding for DPOs, the appointment of DPO members on representative bodies, and clear structures aimed at ensuring primacy for DPOs are also recommended by the General Comment No. 7 as arising from the CRPD: see paras. 42 to 66.

IX. Article 33

  1. Article 33 supplements Article 4(3). It requires the involvement of civil society in the monitoring of the State’s compliance with the CRPD and this should include DPOs, which should be heard and recognised through formal mechanisms.
  2. Article 33(3) implies that States parties should support and fund the strengthening of capacity within civil society, in particular DPOs, to ensure their effective participation in the processes of the independent monitoring frameworks. DPOs should have appropriate resources, including support through independent and self-managed funding, to take part in the independent monitoring frameworks and ensure that reasonable accommodation and accessibility requirements for its membership are met. The support and funding of DPOs in relation to Article 33(3) complements States parties’ obligations under Article 4(3) of the Convention and do not preclude them (para. 39, Gen. Comm. No. 7).

X. Articles 4 and 33 as linked with other provisions of the CRPD

  1. Articles 4(3) and 33(3) are important as instruments to achieve the obligations arising from other articles in the CRPD. For example, they are key to achieving equality and non-discrimination, as required by Article 5.
  2. Priority objectives for States parties in implementing the CRPD include the creation of an enabling environment for the establishment and functioning of DPOs, by adopting a policy framework favourable to their establishment and sustained operation. This includes guaranteeing their independence and autonomy from the State, the establishment, implementation of and access to adequate funding mechanisms, including public funding and international cooperation, and the provision of support, including technical assistance, for empowerment and capacity-building. Legislation and policies should be adopted that recognize the right to participation and involvement of DPOs and regulations that establish clear procedures for consultations at all levels of authority and decision-making. This legislative and policy framework should provide for the mandatory realization of public hearings prior to the adoption of decisions, and include provisions requiring clear time frames, accessibility of consultations and an obligation to provide reasonable accommodation and support. This can be done through clear references in laws and other forms of regulations to the participation and selection of representatives from DPOs. There should also be the establishment of permanent consultation mechanisms with DPOs, including round tables, participatory dialogues, public hearings, surveys and online consultations, respecting their diversity and autonomy (see para. 94(b), (e) and (f), Gen. Comm. No. 7).
  3. Notably, States parties should prohibit discriminatory and other practices by third parties, such as service providers, directly or indirectly interfering with the right of disabled persons, including their DPOs, to be closely consulted and actively involved in decision-making processes related to the Convention (para. 51, Gen Comm. No. 7). Also, States parties should put in place mechanisms to denounce the conflicts of interests of representatives of organizations of disabled people or other stakeholders, to prevent their negative impacts on the autonomy, will and preferences of disabled people (para. 52, Gen. Comm. No. 7). States parties should adopt provisions granting organizations of disabled people seats on, for example, standing committees and/or temporary task forces by giving them the right to nominate working members to these bodies (para. 53, Gen. Comm. No. 7).
  4. Access to information (Article 21 CRPD) is necessary for DPOs to be involved and to fully participate and freely express their opinions in the monitoring process. Such organizations need to receive the information in accessible formats, including digital formats, and technologies appropriate to all forms of disabilities, in a timely manner and without additional cost. This includes the use of sign languages, Easy Read, plain language and Braille, augmentative and alternative communication, and all other accessible means, modes and formats of communication of choice by disabled people in official interactions. Sufficiently prior to any consultation, all relevant information, including specific budgetary, statistical and other relevant information necessary for an informed opinion, should be made available (para. 84, Gen. Comm. No. 7).

XI. Conclusion

  1. It is clear that DPOs are fundamental to the proper implementation of the CRPD. The CRPD Committee has advised extensively on this – as summarised above. Unfortunately, Ireland’s very late ratification of the CRPD, and failure to ratify the Optional Protocol, suggest that the State has not properly addressed how it will introduce the mechanisms that are required to ensure that DPOs play the crucial role that is entrusted to them by the CRPD. It would appear to be an omission that now requires urgent attention in close consultation with VVI and other national DPOs.
  2. Should VVI have further questions, we will try our best to reply to them.

Submissions & observations

VVI Observations on the Athenry Market Square Part 8 Proposal

May 31st, 2021


This is the submission on the Athenry Market Square Part 8 proposal from Voice of Vision Impairment (VVI), which is a Disabled Persons Organization (DPO) under the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD).

We draw your attention to Article 4.3 of the CRPD, which obliges states parties to engage in close consultation with DPOs on designs and policies. Directly related to this is paragraph 23 of General Comment 7 of the CRPD, which obliges all “authorities” to give detailed and reasoned responses to DPO submissions.

VVI is the only national DPO in Ireland focusing on issues relating to visual impairment.

Inaccessible Information

The images in the proposal were not adequately described for those of us with severe visual impairments (cf. EU Websites Accessibility Directive, 2016; European Accessibility Act, 2019; Disability Act, 2005, S28).

As such, visually impaired people, also through their national DPO, were denied the proper opportunity to engage in the consultation on an equal basis with their sighted comparitors.


VVI has concerns about the proposed pedestrianisation of Market Square. We note that there are two banks, an undertaker, a doctor’s surgery, and a chemist, on the square. In order to exercise their right of access to these businesses, many disabled people, especially those who are independent and relying on public transport (such as taxi), or private transport (including modified or adapted vehicles), need to be able to get as close as possible to their destinations in order to locate them safely.

For example, it is not much good to a blind passenger if a taxi-driver has to let him/her off outside the Square and tells them they have to fend for themselves.

Furthermore, we understand that there will be traffic access to the square by one street only, implying that the three other access streets are also to be pedestrianised. The same issue arises to businesses and dwelling places on these streets as well.

These measures would effectively exclude many disabled people from the centre of Athenry. As much as anyone else, disabled people have Human Rights of access to their community/environment (inter alia, cf. European Convention on Human Rights, Article 8, which links in to Article 14 (discrimination).

Article 9 of the CRPD also guarantees easy and safe access to our environment, as does the Arhus Convention (Environment Act, 2011).

No Shared Space Unless Wholly Unavoidable

According to UK Guide Dogs research through the University of London (2009), guide Dogs need a minimum of 60mm front-facing flat kerbs in order not to walk out in front of traffic. This needs to be maintained, even if occasional traffic is permitted in the Square. We recommend 125mm kerbs (as is standard in Northern Ireland since 2015).

We recommend footway widths of 2.5m in order to adequately cater for power wheelchairs passing each other. Where the surrounding streets are too narrow for this, we recommend a replacement of the narrow kerbs with a strongly defined corduroy tactile strip where the current kerbs are. This is not ideal for guide-dog users, as just stated, but is a compromise that would allow wheelchair users to access the buildings on these streets. Guide-dog handlers would have to navigate these four streets manually.

Submissions & observations

Dept. of Health Shuts Out DPOs instead of Prioritising Them

Critique of NESC HDF Paper “Building Better…”, June 2021

This critique relates to the report: “Building a New Relationship between Voluntary Organisations and the State in the Health and Social Care Sectors: NESC Secretariat Paper for the Dialogue Forum with Voluntary Organisations (June 2021), by Dr. Damian Thomas. Perenthetic references to the report in this document will be to Thomas, 2021).

Executive Summary of VVI’s Response

Long-term consultation regarding disability services is a major theme of the NESC-HDF paper being discussed here.

At least with regard to disability issues, this report must be set aside because its recommendations ignore and contravene the State’s “general obligations” under the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD).

In particular, the total absence of “organizations of people with disabilities” in the Health Dialogue Forum itself, in the preparation of the paper (interviewees and publications), as well as in the consequent recommendations, ar anathema to Article 4.3 and General Comment 7 of the CRPD, in particular – i.e., sections dealing with “consultation.”


In 2019, Catherine Day was commissioned to head a report into the relationship between the State and the “voluntary” health service sector. The report was published as The Independent Review Group report (IRG, 2019).

As a result of one of its recommendations, the Minister of Health set up a Health Dialogue Forum (HDF) where the Dept. of Health could consult with the voluntary sector on health service provision with a view to getting the best quality of provision for the service-users.

This HDF in turn commissioned the National Economic and Social Council to report into positive lessons to be learnt from the covid experience, to show the way forward in future co-operation between the State and service-providers. 70% of disability services are provided by the “voluntary” sector (Dept. of Health Capacity Report, July, 2021).

The NESC report being responded to here has been signed off on by the Minister for Health and the respective CEOs of the HSE, Dept. of Health etc.

Summary of Report

The NESC report sees the changes in service-provision during covid (Chapter 3) as being evidence of a new transition to “accountable autonomy” of voluntary service providers (Chapters 4 and 5). This “accountable autonomy” is a proposed solution to the claimed problem in the IRG that a balance had to be struck by the service provider between accountability to the State funder on one hand, and autonomy of the service provider on the other. Key to this new way of working are the two key forums: firstly the Dept. of Health’s HDF (mentioned above), and secondly, the newly reformed National Consultative Committee, set up by the HSE.

From a disability perspective, only service-providers are represented on either of these committees, and the report is certainly indicative of this gloss from the HDF perspective.

Fatal Flaw – DPOs aren’t even mentioned

The report contains dozens of perspectives from service providers, both through its main vehicle of qualitative interviews, and through service provider publications, including from many disability service providers (DSPs). DPO voices are completely absent from the report. According to the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD), the only “representative organizations” of disabled people are “organizations of people with disabilities” (General Comment 7, para. 10), which we know as Disabled Persons Organisations (DPOs).

Indeed in the report itself it is clear that the authors had no idea of the existence of DPOs, let alone their significance, and there is not even one reference to the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. If the authors had read the Convention and its General Comment 7, they would have learnt that “representative organizations” of disabled people, are not only to be distinguished from service providers, but that these DPOs are to be prioritised over DSPs in consultations, since the latter “may have a conflict of interests” in advocating for their service users (CRPD, General Comment 7, para. 13).

At the end of a long list of constituent members of the “voluntary sector,” the report does mention “Advocacy and representative groups,“ which could indeed refer to support groups such as parent-led groups, but that is the only slight hint that there even could be such a thing as a DPO, and even here, DPOs are neither acknowledged nor distinguished (Thomas, 2021, Ch. 2). For the rest of the report, “the disability sector” is conflated with “disability service providers,” “disability (umbrella) groups,” and “Section 38 and 39 organisations” (ibid., passim).

Apart from the author and the key Dept. of Health official acknowledging to me, personally, that they did not even know what a DPO was before my contacting them, further evidence that the authors are blithely unaware of the existence of DPOs, let alone the State’s obligation to prioritise them in consultations, occurs where we are told in regard to the National Consultative Committee:

The membership of the Committee is also to be broadened to include service providers, family representatives, the HSE and the voice of people with disabilities, reflecting the view that ‘if we are serious about collaboration everyone has to be on board…we need to have representation of people with disabilities in this committee’” (ibid., Box A5).

No matter that such disabled people could themselves be allies of or alibis for service providers instead of being represented through their DPOs as specified in the CRPD.

Giving DPO Powers to the Service Providers

There are signs that the authors actually mistake disability service providers for DPOs, e.g.:

“Their [disability service providers] roots within the local community enables these organisations not only to be more responsive to local needs, but to act as advocates for service users.” (ibid., 2.3).


“… the HSE is keen to preserve in its delivery model… their [voluntary bodies’ – read service providers’] advocacy role…” and that the staff “know them and understand their needs” (ibid., 4.14).

An example of a “grass roots forum” where disabled people’s issues filter up, is given as Inclusion Ireland (a service-provider) (ibid., 3.8).

One attempted defence from a Dept. of Health official has been to say that the HDF and the report both have a very narrow remit regarding service provider issues alone. Although this can’t make sense anyway, since service-providers do not operate in a vacuum, and service-provision is exactly the sort of context that the CRPD is written for, the report itself belies the “narrow remit” claim when it conflates service provider issues with service-user issues (e.g., Alone’s phoneline identifying issues on the ground) (ibid., 4.3).

The “positive feedback” of clients or service users (ibid., 4.6) is no replacement for representation through DPOs (General Comment 7), however much the disability service provider claims to be “embedded in the community” (ibid., 4.9).

The wish “that voluntary organisations [read service-providers] are drivers of ongoing policy change rather than passive recipients… “; and the State’s commitment to “consulting with voluntary providers on a regular basis and in a meaningful way, including on Sláintecare and other relevant policy developments” so that “all members of the Forum will be invited to consider how they can best work together to deliver national strategy” (ibid., 5.6), is fitting of treatment of DPOs alone (according to General Comment 7), but we know from experience and continued exclusion that DPOs do not figure in this plan, and as such, without the clear prioritisation of DPOs, this is an utter subversion of the CRPD.

Undue Homage to Covid Practices

A worryingly cosy relationship between the State and DSPs comes in the report, with their self-praise mixed with mutual congratulations indicating somewhat of a mutually beneficial echo chamber – that may not necessarily be beneficial for disabled people.

Instead of “nothing about us without us” we have the two parties who should be accountable to us talking over our heads. Indeed, the report gives us a window on the veritably sumptuous feast of consultation that the State has been laying on for the service providers, while it has effectively closed the door to us and left us outside in the cold – the very DPOs that the State is obliged to prioritise in consultations.

We in VVI found ourselves generally shut out of HSE consultation during covid – and remain so. Our advice and recommendations generally went ignored, except in one instance when it was relayed to a service provider for it to do with as it wished.

See VVI’s Initial Submission to the Dept. of Health and HSE:

So, when the State sees the current consultative forums as being “comprised of senior decision makers from the statutory and voluntary sectors” (ibid., 4.3), it turns the CRPD on its head by bestowing the decision-making role on the service providers, despite their potential conflicts of interests.

We draw a contrast between our being shunned and frustrated, with the opposite experiences of service providers being accommodated in structures that “afforded voluntary bodies a voice at the centre of the policy dialogue and a real sense that their concerns were being actively listened too” (ibid.).

Other Conceptual Confusions

The portrayal of the binary concept of service providers being both autonomous and accountable to the State – without the involvement of any other entity – (ibid., 2.4; 4.7; 5.3), only becomes possible when the primary experts and main stakeholders (DPOs), are omitted. Instead of the false binary portrayed, both the State and third party service providers, have to be accountable to DPOs, instead of a service provider (self-described) “being allowed to get on with what you are good at” (ibid., 4.4) – whatever that might mean…


The report is nowhere more accurate than where it states “Changing relationships, organisational culture and attitudes is not easy” (ibid., 2.5), but more than anything else, this statement should be seen as applying to the change in culture needed among the State, its report-writers, and the far-too-powerful service providers, in order to put an end to the continuous trampling of our Human Rights. Instead of proposing a “a deepening and widening of the relationship” between the State and disability service providers, which is already very cosy, we instead insist that our rights as a DPO to be prioritised in consultations be respected.

A Dept. of Health official told me, personally, that DPOs didn’t need to be even mentioned, since she felt that there were other forums where the Department was dealing with us – which is factually incorrect, as well as wholly missing the point of DPOs intrinsic significance to everything disability-related.

The “partnership” the State has with the service providers (ibid., 5.3), needs to be recalibrated and transposed to focus instead on the still-forgotten and still-condescended-to minority – disabled citizens through their DPOs. As long as service providers, instead of ourselves, continue to be prioritised in consultations on “institutional and policy reform” (ibid., 5.4), the State will remain in total contempt of the CRPD.

The overall cause for this ongoing marginalisation of DPOs is the inaction of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration, and Youth, which as the “focal point” of the CRPD, has the responsibility of co-ordinating its implementation throughout statutory bodies etc. But for the moment, it sufficient to say that this NESC report, being based on the absence of the most essential stakeholders, is irredeemably flawed.

As soon as possible, systems need to be configured so that DPOs are clearly distinguished from other actors, and prioritised in all consultations.

In the meantime, as per its obligations under international law and the guidance that is the CRPD, the State needs to set aside this NESC report with regard to disability-related matters. Indeed, since these are so bound up with non-disability matters throughout the report, it is likely that the entire report needs to be set aside.

Robbie Sinnott,
Co-ordinator of VVI
© VVI, 2021.

Submissions & observations

Submission by Voice of Vision Impairment on Part 8: Tralee Town Centre (Pavements). Phase 3

Who we are

Voice of Vision Impairment is a Disabled Persons Organisation (DPO) as set out under General Comment 7 of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

This means that, since we are not a service-provider, and therefore have no conflict of interests, we should be prioritised in consultations regarding all matters relating to disability (GC7, para. 13). Indeed, DPOs are the only representative organisations in relation to disability (ibid., para. 10). Note that just about every matter relates to disability, including this Part 8.

Voice of Vision Impairment is the national DPO focusing on issues relating to visual impairment.

Inaccessible Information.

In violation of the EU Website Accessibility Directive (2016), the Disability Act (2005, Part 3), and Kerry County Council’s obligations under Public Sector Duty (Human Rights and Equality Act, 2014, S42), the information on this Part 3 is only partially accessible (i.e., significant parts are wholly inaccessible to blind and partially sighted users of screenreading technology).

In particular, there has been no attempt made at describing images, maps, overall project locations, markings layouts, and vehicle tracking.

Our Kerry representative, Barry O’Donnell, alerted Diarmuid Reilly (senior engineer) to these accessibility difficulties, but this made no difference.

The following observations are based on the incomplete information we have been given (in violation of our rights of equal access). Under the CRPD, the onus is on the Council to seek out our expert opinion at the concept stage of any design, rather than leave it up to us to struggle with inaccessible documentation when we’ve been alerted to the proposal by a member somewhere down the line.

The onus is also on Kerry Coco to provide detailed answers to our questions and issues (GC7, para. 23).

From what we can gather from the incomplete/inaccessible information, the following are among the proposals/consequences of the Part 3.

There are some pinch points on Bridge Lane (taxi rank, Citizens advice) and approaching Lower Rock Street (Kirby’s Brogue Inn).

We also understand the existing perimiter wall around the Garda Station will be removed (Currently this area has a footpath with

We understand a tactile guidance strip will be used to delineate between the road and the footpath.

Lower Castle Street (extending from the top of Denny Street) – narrowing of street to increase footpath widths, bicycle parking etc.

Shared Space

The major area of concern for VVI is shared space on the New Road (Garda Station) which deviates to the Island of Geese on the left and Bridge Lane (Taxi Rank, Citizens Advice Bureau) on the right. This area leads up to Lower Rock Street (Ray’s Loaded Lunches) passing the busy Rock Street Post Office en route.

There should be no shared space in areas where there is vehicular traffic. So, kerbs should be maintained, and, indeed, we recommend that these dished kerbs be raised to 125mm, but certainly, at no stage be allowed to go below 60mm (the minimum height for them to be recognised by a guide dog). Without adequate kerbs, guide dogs will walk out in front of traffic, including cyclists. For minimum heights for guide dog use, see report by Guide Dogs UK (2009, 2012).

Similarly, long-cane users need to have a safe zone where they know they will be safe from traffic (including cyclists). Our members cannot use eye contact to communicate with traffic, and especially with the increased useage of e-vehicles, it is more likely, with shared space, that blind or partially sighted people will step out in front of traffic (inadvertently).

For research into the dangers of shared space to blind and partially sighted pedestrians in an Irish context, see the TrinityHaus Report into Shared Surfaces (2011), and for Britain (in a very similar context), see the Holmes Report (2015).

Raised crossing points at Pedestrian and Zebra Crossings

Raised or level crossings cause Blind and partially sighted pedestrians to veer off course, potentially loose their balance (twist their ankle) etc as well as removing the dished paving cue.

Rumble strips which are used before roundabouts are very effective and could be used as an alternative to slow down traffic.

Bicycle parking

To reduce street clutter and eliminate unnecessary injury, we suggest bicycle parking stands be on the road (occupying former parking spaces) as Dublin City Council have done in St. Stephen’s Green, Hume Street etc.

Consideration should also be given to allocating a portion of town centre multi-storey car parks for secure bicycle parking. Dublin City Council have done this in Drury Street.

Pedestrian crossings

Tactile paving should extend the width of the path to the building line. Pedestrian crossing buildout (eliminating the need to use relief islands) are welcome as they will reduce the time needed to cross the

Related Hazzards

Phase 2 of part 8 urban realm upgrade works down Russell Street and Bridge Street are currently underway.

These are very narrow streets with pinch points.

As far as we know, a tactile guidance strip is being used to delineate between the footpath and the road.

The efficacy of tactile guidance strips are questionable even in their original setting, however, they are wholly inadequate as boundary markers. Where streets/roads are too narrow for wheelchair-accessible kerbed footways, in close consultation with DPOs (such as VVI), we recommend the use of high definition corduroy strips to delineate the carriageway from the footway.


VVI is recognised by the State (under international law), as a DPO. This means we get priority in consultations. An analogy is that of a 999 submissions thinking that a proposed bridge design is wonderful, but one, who happens to be the civil engineer, says it is dangerous, and is likely to collapse within six months etc. So, our perspectives are not to be aggregated, but treated with the seriousness given to us by law.

Shared space is wholly unsuitable for vulnerable pedestrians, and especially those who are blind or partially sighted. Visually impaired have rights of equal and safe access to their environment and community, and this right needs to be reflected in responsible planning that adheres to the principles of Universal Design. DMURS (2019, 28) says that pedestrians are top of the road-users’ hierarchy, but this doesn’t just mean giving pedestrians free reign everywhere. Responsible planning provides vulnerable pedestrians, in particular, with contiguous areas where they can feel as safe as houses.

Submissions & observations

Visually Impaired pupils left behind in covid measures, says Féach report

Introduction from VVI

Féach is Ireland’s support group for parents of visually impaired children, and can be found at

In May, 2020, Féach conducted research into how blind or partially sighted children were coping and being supported in the emergency educational measures, and the picture was disquieting. Below is Féach’s description of the results, and conclusion aimed at school returns this autumn, as submitted in April 2021 to the State’s consultation on its draft report into its compliance with the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

Many thanks and regards

1 of VVI

Féach logo

The Implications of Covid-19 on the Education of Pupils who are Blind and Visually Impaired

Blind & Visually Impaired Students’ Experience of Remote Learning During Covid 19 Pandemic School Closure


Féach is a voluntary organisation set up in the 1980’s to support parents and families of blind and visually impaired children. We are primarily a support group, however as a result of the shortcomings in the services available to our children; we have been involved in lobbying varying Government agencies on their behalf.

We successfully campaigned for free travel and companion passes for Blind and Visually Impaired children. We were instrumental in the setting up of the National Braille and Large Print Production Centre (now Reading Services), which is located in the grounds of ChildVision, Drumcondra, Dublin 9.


In March 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak of COVID19, as a pandemic, due to its rapid spread around the world. Ireland, took action and put in place plans to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. One such action, announced on March 12th was to close all schools in Ireland. On May 1st, the Government announced a ‘roadmap’ to opening Ireland up again, which indicates that schools will not reopen until September at the very earliest and even then, only 1-2 days a week/at a reduced attendance/capacity (1).

Throughout this time the Department of Education and Skills (DES) has been silent on the learning support needs of children who are Blind/Visually Impaired until June 12th 2020. There has been no guidance from the DES on the provision of resource teaching remotely. Our children have lost months of the weekly 1:1 teaching they normally receive during resource hours. The additional skills they need such as Braille and Assistive Technology have not been addressed. The NCSE who oversee the Visiting Teacher service for Young People who are Blind/Visually Impaired have issued no guidelines for the role of Visiting Teachers under remote learning conditions.

As happy as we are with the inclusion of Blind and severely Visually Impaired children in primary school in the new Summer Provision, we cannot comprehend why blind/vi in post primary have been excluded. We also cannot forget the delay in this help being offered to our children. It is hugely important that these students get the correct help this summer and on their return to school in September

In response to a high number of concerns from parents, Féach conducted a survey from May 18th to May 22nd on the experience of Blind/Visually Impaired Students’ of remote learning. The response was huge and swift; a reflection of the stress parents were under as they struggled to make the material being sent home accessible to their children. In total, 78% of our members responded to the survey. The responses set out the educational supports children have received since school closure;, the barriers they have faced and the support needed to/ required to ease children back into school after such a long absence.

Government published roadmap to ease Covid 19 restrictions and reopen Ireland’s economy and society, accessed at


Lack of VI specific/differentiated work
On March 12th, teachers, pupils and parents were thrown into a unique situation with the almost immediate closing of schools. Parents were advised to support their children’s learning at home. Teachers were told to send work home with their students (in some cases we know of, this did not happen) and to immediately prepare for a situation they had never encountered before.

While homeschooling has been challenging for most parents, it presents unique challenges when the child is blind/visually impaired. Our children require significant adaptations to make learning materials accessible. So not only have our parents had to contend with accessing and downloading a range of resources, they have had to struggle with making these accessible for someone with limited or no vision. In addition, the extra skills so important for independence, have largely been ignored these past months. Braille, screen readers, orientation and mobility (cane training), listening skills and other Individual Support Plan goals have been omitted from consideration during remote learning.

Our survey revealed that remote learning is not working well for most/a large number of students who are blind/visually impaired. Most parents do not have the specialised knowledge of Braille or assistive technology to help their children. (Many teachers seem not to have considered the unique access needs of their blind/visually impaired student when setting work for home.


Contact from Class teachers graph
Contact from class teacher
Made individual contact 42%
Made no individual contact 58%

Only 42% of parents had received any contact from the class teacher to discuss the specific needs of their blind/visually impaired child.

When contact was initiated by the parent, the response was ‘don’t worry, they’ll catch up next year…they can omit that part of the homework’, rather than any attempt to make the material accessible. This is a worrying response of ‘lowering the bar’ for the student with a disability instead of striving to support equal access to the curriculum content.

How was contact made graph
How was contact made
Text/WhatsApp 25 (22.3%)
Phone 59 (52.7%)
Email 77 (68.8%)
Post 5 (4.5%)
In Person 11 (9.8%)

When contact has been made by the class teacher, the majority of contact (69%) has been made by email. With no personal interaction with the parent or student phone calls or video calls would have been preferable. This type of contact lacks clarity and clear guidance, often with no modification of the materials needed or consideration of the additional learning targets/individual goals of the student’s support plan.

35% of parents felt that the contact they had received from their class teacher was insufficient.

Visiting teacher contact graph
Visiting teacher contact
Some contact 42%
No contact 58%


Guidance from the NCSE is very poor with 58% of parents reporting no contact from their child’s Visiting Teacher.

The Visiting Teacher service should be the liaison between school and child, advising the school on exactly how to support a student is part of their remit. As 58% did not contact their students to know how they were doing, this support was not given. Parents were left to muddle through alone. Clearly many schools struggled with this new system which is understandable, however the liaison between the Visiting Teacher and the schools was also very poor. The Visiting Teacher gave very little guidance to schools on how best to support Visually Impaired students at home.

For a significant amount of families, home education is not working for a variety of reasons. The Department of Education and Skills (DES) must carefully examine how it is supporting families of children with disabilities at this time. While many students and their families have been under stress, we feel the additional needs of students with disabilities have been overlooked. Our children need individualised support to access the curriculum and they have additional learning goals if they are to learn to live independently. June 12th, three months into the lockdown, was the first communication from DES which mentioned special needs or blind/visually impaired students.

Nature and frequency of VT graph
Nature and frequency of VT
Excellent 18%
Sufficient 30%
Insufficient 52%

How was VT contact made graph
How was VT contact made
In Person 0.9%
Post 9.2%
Email 48.7%
Phone 59.2%
Text 25%


  • VT has not been in touch with school to guide them on how they should support him and only contacted me by phone 7 weeks in, despite the fact that he is a state exam year student. I feel totally abandoned by the Educational system. The only support agency who offered any support was NCBI – with personal contact, technical support and practical videos. This is not even within their remit. Sorry rant over but to say I feel let down is a total understatement.
  • I have been very disappointed that in over 2 months neither VT for VI and D/HI have made contact
  • Only one email from VT with link to Braille resources. No input at all. I emailed over a week ago to say device not working or charging (this has been ongoing since Feb) nothing done as yet
  • I find it unbelievable that the visiting teacher has not been in contact with us and that I have a child with a vi that is about to head into 2nd year with no technology intervention. He has large print books and these were only made available to him in 6th class. Only started typing lessons in 6th class.Visiting teacher appears to be afraid of technology. What exactly is the job description of the visiting teacher. Surely now during the time of home schooling we should have at least received a phone call from Visiting Teacher
  • I am disappointed we have had no contact at all from Visiting Teacher. I am also disappointed that I found out from my 5 year old that he was using an iPad linked to the whiteboard before school closed. This was set up by VT but I was never informed about it by her or the school. I do not know if my son needs larger print books for next year. I feel our school and teacher are doing their best but the service from the Visiting Teacher has been very lacking to sat the least
  • I emailed the principal regarding lack of face to face online teaching & got no reply.
  • Have emailed the school asking can SNA’s help with subjects, have received no reply
  • I contacted my VT about my daughters computer not working and am still waiting on her to come back…
  • We have had very little input if any from her VT infact she hasn’t been seen by her visiting teacher in almost 3 years only for NBCI we would be totally lost.
  • The general opinion from parents that I have contact with is that Visiting Teacher service is very poor in County XXXXX compared to other areas
  • My child gets very little support from the VT. The visiting teacher has not made any contact with me during this academic year. it is very disappointing
  • My son’s VT retired last year and we have had absolutely no contact or information regarding her replacement since!!

Lack of Resource Teaching Contact

Only 60 % of students heard from their Resource Teacher with nearly 40% having had no contact at all from their child’s resource teacher since the school closure. While ⅔ felt the level of contact was satisfactory, ⅓ of families felt it was insufficient.

Has your resource teacher been in touch graph
Has your resource teacher been in touch?
Yes 60.4%
No 39.6%

Frequency and nature of contact graph
Has would you describe the frequency and nature of this contact?
Excellent 18.3%
Sufficient 29.8%
Insufficient 51.9%

How was resource teacher contact made graph
How was Resource Teacher contact made
In Person 9.2%
Post 13.3%
Email 66.3%
Phone 49%
Text/WhatsApp 19.4%

TECHNOLOGY – The cornerstone of Visually Impaired learning

At present the only method for teachers to contact their students is via technology. Most families have access to some form of technology such as a laptop, smartphone or iPad however some have no access to any technology at all for schoolwork, especially the assistive/adapted technology needed for Visually Impaired users. For some students their devices were not sent home and parents have not been allowed to collect them. For others there has been no support in their use. Many use highly specialised devices such as BrailleNotes with Perkins keyboards. It is impossible for parents to use these without training or support. So they are unable to teach these skills to their child or to help when the device does not work.

Technology is so important for Visually Impaired children. These children need to be supported immediately by the DES with technology training or access to in person s teaching as they have no access to education at present.


  • I have to change lessons because emails and links are not suitable so I must work ahead of his lessons as the emails, work, links are not suitable. I’ve had to learn how to change settings on laptop to allow zoom and I read to him when it’s not suitable. If he was expected to do this himself if I was doing a different job it would be a joke.
  • I asked his teacher could I have my child’s laptop, he said he would ask but have not heard a reply and that was weeks ago, his laptop was set up with so many features that would have been helpful, also my child had to learn his way around a different device. I am not great on IT so I have had to spend hours assisting him. Teachers are sending out work but they don’t think about children that would have any visual difficulties.
  • My daughter has had difficulty seeing the work sent home via the Seesaw app because our iPad is 9 years old and we can’t update to the latest version of Seesaw. As some of her worksheets are created using the newer version of Seesaw she can’t complete the work on the iPad. We look at it on the iPhone – but the text on the phone is too small for her to see even when we zoom in. Have told the class teacher the difficulty we are having and the reason for the problem but it has been shrugged off. No solution forthcoming.
  • I am left trying to figure out how my child can use a laptop when he can’t even see the screen without holding it to his face. Things have to change. I don’t understand why some kids seem to have lots of devices to use for school and have been given the opportunity to trial them and see what works and others get nothing. In my opinion this Visiting Teacher is setting my child up for failure instead of enabling him with independence in the educational system.
  • My son is in 3rd class. He used Connect 12 and we had to appeal the school policy to allow for his technology to be allowed home. This was granted but only after 8 weeks without it which was a shame. Since receiving it he has begun learning how to touch type daily.

Inaccessiblity of Materials

Almost half (49.7%) of all Visually Impaired/Blind students surveyed have not received adapted materials from the school or in some cases access to their large print school books at all. Visually Impaired children cannot work with the standard text books on the curriculum Many of the e-textbooks made available by publishers for free during the pandemic are not easy to read for people with visual impairments. Magnification reduces the clarity of image files. Screen magnifiers do not work well with most web pages and most of the e-textbooks are not formatted for screen readers. Some of the apps used for school-home communication, such as Aladdin etc are not compatible with assistive technology.

This has resulted in students trying to learn from home without books. This is simply impossible. For these students that is 3 months of education gone. They will struggle hugely to catch up when they go back if this gap is not bridged in the meantime.

68.3% feel their Visually Impaired child is struggling more than their non Visually Imapired Child

Nearly half stated their child was struggling academically and emotionally

Aspects where the child is falling behind graph
Aspects where the child is falling behind
Not falling behind 28%
With skills (e.g. fine motor, writing, etc) 37.2%
Emotionally 45.7%
Academically 44.5%


  • Has missed 3 months of subjects that he needs support in – Science, Maths, Business, French. He will have missed some very key lessons and will probably have to drop some Honours subjects. I asked for 1 maths resource a week and was told it was not possible as she had to mind her child!
  • I feel no effort is being made to solve what is probably not a difficult problem to solve. I am her mum – not her teacher. But I feel I am being asked to do the job the teacher should be doing (differentiating the work slightly, looking for solutions) when my daughter’s needs aren’t being thought about when worksheets are being created
  • He is supposed to be accessing classes within the mainstream but with additional support for his VI and physical disabilities (physical disabilities, normal intellect). However, his mainstream teacher hasn’t been in touch at all and when I contacted her she said that she is devising his lesson plans jointly with his special class teacher every fortnight. But when I said this to the special class teacher she said that she hadn’t been in touch and didn’t know what the mainstream class were doing. His special class teacher and SNAs do a 30 minute zoom session with him everyday 11-11.30am which gives his morning structure that he so badly needs. But it is so difficult to keep him engaged with school work overall and I do worry that the books that are read over zoom he can’t see them etc.
  • He was sent home with one reader book and one maths workbook at the start of the lockdown and that’s it since. His special class teacher said that she doesn’t use the books anyway with him in class much because the print is wrong for him. His writing is difficult given his CVI and physical disabilities so he was learning to type in school so this is also something I have to do every day with him on top of his writing, zoom class, reading, maths etc. It’s an awful lot.
  • I don’t think my child is falling behind academically but I do think she is missing out on the resource teaching that she would get in school
  • As the day is nearly complete and my daughter is starting to get tired from the days going on and with Congenital Nystagmus and optic nerve Hypoplasia tiredness affects the vision therefore it’s harder for her to complete same


Supports that may be beneficial to VI children graph
Supports that may be beneficial to VI children while learning at home
Email lesson plans 20.9%
Phone calls 16.5%
Links to online resources 25.3%
Class group interactive video lessons 44.3%
Interactive 1:1 video lessons 55.1%
In person teaching at school or at home 48.1%
  • The Summer Programme that the government has now included Blind and visually impaired children in will need guidance from VT’s to create Lesson Plans for tutors and SNA’s to use during the provision as many children will be getting a home tutor with little experience in VI.
  • Some form of home tuition and direct contact with the teacher are the highest ranked supports parents believe their child requires going forward for the new school year.
  • When teaching can not be done in person, remote lessons must be 1:1 for our children. (This can be provided by resource teacher, class teacher or visiting teacher but they need this support to catch up on materials they can’t see and to learn the vital additional skills they need to learn in Braille and technology.).
  • For a cohort of children with disabilities, direct access to teachers, SNAs and a structured lesson plan derived from the IEP (Student Support Plan Plus) is what is required.
  • While this may not be in line with public health guidelines at present, these children need to be top of the priority list of children returning to school.
  • When children are to return to school the DES must ensure that children with disabilities are not left behind
  • ChildVision and NCBI have been great help to the parents and children during this time, mainstream schools and the DES have not been in our experience
  • Post Primary Students are not included in the Government’s plans for the summer and this needs to addressed


  • He needs 1:1 help with different areas of school work, he wouldn’t engage well from video conferencing as a method of teaching if it was an option.
  • My VT has been in touch and has offered to help with issues with his technology and I have found my school very good. He has all his large print books home so we work from them. Luckily he is only in 4th class so I can help him with all of his work.
  • Communication via phone or video call 1:1 possibly would benefit
  • I am very happy with our school. They are in constant contact with XXXX and myself to see how we are getting on. Lessons are sent in weekly along with feedback from Seesaw app and phone calls. Her main teacher, support teacher and SNA and vice principal have been excellent.
  • My school has been more than supportive during Covid 19 with setting work via school email, Microsoft teams and one in particular livestream. I feel they have done their best and more. Couldn’t have asked for more to be honest.


Come September we need to see Visually Impaired and Blind children prioritised by the DES their individual needs recognised by schools. The children will need 1:1 teaching either in person or via video calls. If schools will be phasing students back into the classroom, our children need to be considered first so they do not lose any more resource hours or continue to struggle to access their textbooks and worksheets

Submissions & observations

Observations on Proposed Pedestrianisation of Merrion Row, Dublin 2

Made by Voice of Vision Impairment (30 Apr 2021)


1. Prioritisation of DPOs in Consultations

As a DPO under the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, VVI needs to be prioritised in Dublin City Council’s (DCC) consultations on this proposal, and our concerns answered in detail, publicly as well as directly to us. Also, as a DPO, DCC needs to have sought our advice on this project from the concept stage of the plan. This, of course, did not happen.

By law, safety and rights come before perceived popularity.

Inaccessibility Issues Regarding the Proposal.

2. Inaccessible Information

The images in the proposal are not described, full stop, let alone adequately described for blind readers. This hampers our participation in the consultation process, and violates the EU Web Accessibility Directive (2016), and the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (Article 4.3 as clarified by General Comment 7).

Accessibility/Safety Issues

3. Delineation

The delineation of the new pedestrianised spaces from the single remaining lane of traffic is unclear… i.e., we don’t actually know what it is because of the inaccessibility of the images; and also, it is likely to be inadequate, since a 125mm flat-facing kerb is required to segregate pedestrians from traffic – for safety of long cane users and guide-dog users, respectively.

4. Narrower Safe Footways

If the above point has not been catered for, then it means that blind pedestrians will be limited to a a very narrow safe space, if, indeed, they have any safe space remaining at all.

5. Vehicular Access

Many blind people rely on access by car – be it private transport, or taxi, and the reduction of road-space from three to one lanes means that such access will be more difficult.

For example, a blind person wishing to get a taxi to access the post office or the bank may not be set down close enough to where they need to go, putting them in harm’s way (given the above points 3 and 4).

6. Bus Diversion

The diversion of the 44 from Hume Street to Pembroke Street and Leeson Street will cause confusion and a lot of hard retraining.

7. Segregation of dining areas

The canvas/tarpaulin screens on steel poles are not fit for purpose when it comes to protecting long cane users, since the long cane is liable to snag in the gap between the canvas and the ground, and cause injury to the cane-user.

8. Partial Pedestrianisation

What is being proposed, of course, is partial pedestrianisation, depending on the time of day. This is confusing for the blind pedestrian, who will find the street safe to access in the current system, and find it dangerous in the semi-pedestrianised state (with one lane). This also means that they will be effectively excluded from the street during the peak dining hours. This has Human Rights ramifications, and is probably illegal.

9. Bollards

Bollards are a hazard for long-cane users. Safer alternatives would have been proposed by VVI were we to have been consulted in time.

10. General

10.1. Encroachment of private business on public realm.
Apart from the worrying aspect of private enterprise being sponsored by the State to annex public realm, there are two related issues:

10.2. Where does the insurance liability lie, for example, if a long-cane-user injures themselves by being scalded by someone bringing a hot drink to the on-street dining area, or if they hurt themselves on the inadequate screens?

10.3. What is the plan to reclaim this public realm for the public once the supposed revitalisation stage is over?

11. Environmental Impact Statement

With such a large diversion of traffic from Stephen’s Green East, surely an Environmental Impact Statement is required? For instance, on Pembroke Street, Leeson Street, Ely Place, Merrion Square,

12. Bus Connects Presumption

Without prejudice to the foregoing, DCC’s final statement that Bus Connects will mean that there will be no buses on Merrion Row from 2024, anyway, presupposes the outcome of a democratic process of planning which has not yet been completed. It reflects wishful thinking, and a nod to the maxim that “if we define things as real, then they become real in their consequences.”

Submissions & observations

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:

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.”


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.


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.

Submissions & observations

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