OPINION: "Disability seems to be the part of the manifesto where they all go ga-ga and promise everything"

Steve Daunt would like political parties to wake up to the real cost of living with a disability

OPINION: "Disability seems to be the part of the manifesto where they all go ga-ga and promise everything"

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As a disabled person who is employed, I know that the majority of disabled people in Ireland are not as lucky. For that reason I completely understand the heavy influence on ensuring disabled people have strong social protection. Even then, the promise of an extra €20 over the lifetime of a Dáil does not strike me as amazing. Is that the way to address the real costs faced by disabled people?

Back in November, Disability Federation of Ireland had primed its members with a list of demands ahead of Election 2016 and was determined to get them noticed.

The organisation is responsible for the Disable Inequality campaign. One aspect of the campaign was asking people to put three simple questions to any of the canvassers who came-a-knocking, these three questions, and the logic behind them, were:

1. The appointment of a full Minister for Disability Inclusion. This is the only way that government decisions across all departments – like employment or transport for example – will include the rights and needs of people with disabilities from the start. The Minister would also drive Ireland’s immediate ratification and implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

2. That people with disabilities have a fair income. Living with a disability means extra costs for people. The added burden of paying for extra heating, housing aids and transport leaves many Irish families struggling.

3. That people with disabilities have the same access to supports and services as everyone else. Everyday people with disabilities are denied access and excluded from basic employment, education, income and community services.

The other strand to the campaign is having disabled people telling their own stories about how inequality affects their lives. The 13 stories in the last 13 days of the campaign can be found at www.disableinequality.ie.

"Disability seems to be the part of the manifesto where they all go ga-ga and promise everything"

So what was the political response from parties?

To use an American phrase, it’s like mom’s apple pie. Disability seems to be the part of the manifesto where they all go ga-ga and promise everything. I mentioned ‘all’ but a quick look at the Anti-Austerity Alliance website leads me to think disabled people will have no part to play in any uprising of the proletariat. They don’t even take refuge in lumping disability into health.

To be fair, People Before Profit do have 11 points in their manifesto. Like everything in their manifesto, their starting point is a reversal of EVERY cut to disability services. Is that aspirational? Quite possibly. Then again any of the parties can be accused of that.

There is one thing which every party agrees on. They will all ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People. This is great but don’t forget the convention has been in existence since 2005. Add in the fact that it was steered through by Irish experts then you can see how long anything positive might take.

From my perspective, I’m unsure whether any of the proposals would help me directly. Of course promises of accessible transport or a well-designed environment will help me in the long term but I also have costs associated with my disability.

So where does that leave us?

On the one hand every party has ticked the disability box but will it be transformed into reality? If we were to take all the manifestos at face value, then the attention to detail in the FG, SF and Social Democrat manifestos offer hope. Again, his comes with the health warning that, for now, they are just promises.

Will the next government disable inequality?

Ask me in a little while – or at the next election...

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