Bid to make disabled rights an election issue
A campaign has been launched to make an election issue out of the inequalities faced by Ireland's 600,000 people with disabilities.
The unprecedented action calls for the next government to appoint a new minister to take responsibility for disabled rights and increase the disability allowance by 20 euro.
The group is also fighting for medical cards to be retained on the basis of need not employment, a 50 million euro spend on care each year and guaranteed access to all transport and employment and education programmes.
John Dolan, campaign director of Disable Inequality, said the issue has never received the political leadership, attention and commitment which is needed to make Ireland a country of equals.
"Disable Inequality is simple," Mr Dolan said.
"With just two words it tells us that it is not the disability that we live with that is disabling. It is the inequality that we live."
The initiative is being taken after repeated protests by people with disabilities over budget cuts, including a sleep-out at Government Buildings last year by several wheelchair users over plans to modernise care homes.
The protest followed reports on an almost weekly basis from health watchdogs about the treatment of people with intellectual disabilities at homes around the country and the conditions they live in.
Disable Inequality warned 13% of the population live with a disability while 150 million euro has been taken out of disability health services since 2008.
Campaigners' next step is to deepen grassroots support in the upcoming election campaign and to engage the public and candidates in all 43 constituencies.
Mr Dolan said: "Ireland is a deeply unequal country for people with disabilities.
"It is a country where discrimination, segregation and bias is a daily experience. We've had lots of policies, we've had strategies, we've had promises. But we have never had a serious political commitment to ending the unfairness that is a systemic part of life for thousands of people and their families.
"The power of this campaign is in people's stories, so we have mobilised our grassroots to tell their stories, to highlight the inequalities faced, one story at a time."
Setting out the campaign at an event in Trinity College, Disable Inequality, which is supported by the Disability Federation of Ireland, claimed 70% of people with disabilities are unemployed, only one in two go beyond secondary education and they have to give 24 hours' notice if they want to travel by train.