Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Society failing young disabled people shamefully, says report

Some of the most basic daily tasks and activities are degrading, dehumanising and isolating for young disabled people in Northern Ireland, a new shock report has revealed.

The research has highlighted alarming failures in provision in public toilets, housing, public transport, education and leisure facilities that mean young people with disabilities frequently miss out on services and activities most people take for granted.

The report was compiled by Trailblazers – a group of 16 to 30-year-olds brought together by the charity, Muscular Dystrophy Campaign – and provides a snapshot of the reality of day-to-day life experienced by young disabled people here.

Many people living in Northern Ireland rely on public transport but noted that for disabled people, there are particular and unique challenges where access is difficult or even impossible which "hinders disabled people's ability to study, work and socialise in and around towns and cities".

It continued: "We have found that although there have been many improvements in recent years, there is still much to be done to enable disabled people to use public transport confidently, spontaneously and safely.

"Automatic ramps on some buses and portable ramps on trains and taxis enable disabled people to travel to some extent.

"However, this is less than ideal for young disabled people, as they still rely heavily on assistance from others.

"Travelling independently should be of prime concern."

The report has also called for universities and higher education facilities in Northern Ireland to improve support for disabled students.

Employment was another area of concern identified by the report, which noted that only a third of disabled people in Northern Ireland have a job.

Michaela Hollywood (22), a public relations undergraduate from Downpatrick and a founding member of Trailblazers, said: "All too often, fundamental aspects of modern life, like trips to the shops, cinema, football stadiums or music venues, are a no-go zone because they are simply not accessible."

Case study

"At Queen's I was based in a city centre location, so parking was at a premium.

"Being provided with a disabled parking permit didn't always mean a space would be available and this could make getting to classes on time very difficult.

"This simply had to be factored in but it could at times be stressful, particularly coming up to exam times.

"Accommodation is the other area I feel can and should be improved over time – a greater number of disabled-friendly student flats would greatly improve the prospects for disabled students to integrate with their peers."

Sean Fitzsimmons

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