Irish Wheelchair Association launches new Awareness Campaign ‘Home Truths’

September 20 2023, 03:04pm

Irish Wheelchair Association member Glenn Quinn launches Home Truths a new housing awareness campaign by IWA

‘Home Truths: Because everyone deserves a place to call home’ is a new awareness campaign launched today by DFI Member Organisation Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA) to highlight the lived experience of people with disabilities in the housing market, and to expose the barriers IWA members face to secure wheelchair liveable housing. 

Five IWA members have shared their own personal home truths in a series of videos which lay bare the harsh and poignant challenges they face. For Glenn, one of the participants that sadly means the indignity of having to crawl up the stairs to get to bed.

Supported under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) Grant Scheme the project was officially launched by Minister Anne Rabbitte, Minister of State with responsibility for Disability, at IHREC’s premises in Dublin on Tuesday 19 September 2023. 

Thanking the Irish Wheelchair Association members who shared their stories, Minister Rabbitte, said that it is important that the lived experience of people with disabilities are heard to help shape national policy, and reinforced the Government’s commitment to facilitate people with disabilities to live independently, as reflected in the National Housing Strategy for Disabled People 2002-2027.

 “We want to deliver improved housing and related supports. This strategy makes sure that disabled people are at the centre of decision making when it comes to housing, giving them more choice, and control over where, how and who they live with, and promoting their inclusion in the community,” she said. 

Sinéad Gibney, the Chief Commissioner of the IHREC said, “Access to independent living, with independent living supports and wrap-around services, is a right that must be delivered to disabled people who require it. All people, including those amongst us who have disabilities, should enjoy the right to work, contribute, and participate in society. IHREC was delighted to fund the excellent work that the IWA has done in showing legislators and the wider public the severe challenges and hardships faced by people with disabilities as they try to access their human rights.”

The Campaign Message 

The Home Truths campaign is about giving a platform to people with disabilities to raise their housing issues, according to IWA National Housing Programme Manager, Jean Coleman.

“The participants all tell a different story, and they reflect what our membership is experiencing throughout the country.

“Their stories highlight the need for more wheelchair liveable housing, the inadequacies of Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), and the need for local authorities and the HSE to work more closely together to ensure that there is a personal assistant service in place in tandem with a person being allocated a house,” she said.

The housing crisis in Ireland has been well documented but this campaign, she added, shows that for people with disabilities it is a crisis within a crisis and particularly if you are a wheelchair user.

This is in part due to Ireland’s national building regulations which currently only provides for wheelchair visitable and not wheelchair liveable housing.

Through its previous Think Housing Build Accessible campaign IWA has been leading the charge for Part M (Access and Use) of the building regulations to be amended to address this, while its award-winning Think Ahead Think Housing campaign encourages and supports people with disabilities who wish to live in their own homes but can’t afford to do so, to apply to their local authority for social housing.  This will ensure that people with disabilities are included in social housing planning and delivery.

Tony Cunningham, National Director of IWA Services said, “Without changes to the building regulations, people with physical disabilities will continue to be caught in an endless housing crisis, and forced to live in unsuitable, inaccessible housing.”

He points out that ‘accessible’ properties in Ireland right now means a wheelchair user can get in the front door and access a room, but not that they could live there, use the bathroom or sleep. 

According to the Summary of Social Housing Assessment 2022 there are almost 5,000 people with disabilities, including physical, mental, intellectual, sensory and others, waiting for social housing from their local authority.

IWA believes this figure is an under-representation of the actual need based on several factors including people not thinking ahead until such time as a crisis arises like parents passing on, as well as the cumbersome, lengthy application process which some people can find daunting.

In its Pre-Budget Submission IWA, which is an approved housing body, has called the Government out on its housing failures which are in breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which Ireland ratified in 2018, under Articles 19,20 and 28.

When it comes to housing for people with disabilities it's not just about finding a place to live, it's about finding a place that allows people to live with dignity and independence.

That’s a home truth.  

Meet the Participants

*Glenn Quinn is 61 years of age and from being able bodied all his life now needs to use a wheelchair due to a degenerating medical condition.  He is due to be evicted from his rented accommodation in Dublin where he currently has to crawl up the stairs in order to go to bed.  He is on the Housing Assisted Payment (HAP) and desperately seeking wheelchair liveable housing. “I need an apartment at one level so that I can function as a human being”, he said. 

See Glen’s video here

*Kaspar Cauns is 42 years of age and lives in Naas, Co Kildare.  He suffered a life-changing injury in a motorbike accident which resulted in him languishing in a nursing home for over nine years waiting for a house, and once he got a house he was waiting nearly two years for a Personal Assistant package. He speaks of how ‘low’ he felt, and how there was ‘no meaning’ to his life.

See Kaspar’s video here

*25- year- old Katie Kelly from Co Kilkenny, who has a muscle wasting condition ‘Friedreich Ataxia’, describes her struggle with isolation and loneliness having no choice but to remain in her rural family home, whilst waiting for an accessible home to become available in the city. This will finally give her the independence that she so desperately craves and the opportunities that go with it. All Katie wants is a ‘purpose to her life’, and not to ‘feel like a prisoner’.

See Katie’s video here. Update:  Katie has been contacted by Kilkenny Co Council regarding a house that should be ready for Christmas 2024, hopefully!

*42-year-old Elitsa Borisova lives in Dublin and is being forced to move out of the community she has lived in for past 14 years because her landlord is selling up.  She highlights her concern about having to move from an area where she feels safe and secure and has established friendships. Although happy that she is not being made homeless, she is sad to be saying goodbye to the community she knows so well and wishes it hasn’t come to this.  Elitsa, who has an acquired disability from childhood, thinks that in situations like hers the council should intervene and purchase the property for sale. She had been living in this particular property for almost 10 years.

See Elitsa’s video here

*Yvonne Fahy (48) has been living independently in Galway for over 20 years. A car accident in 2000 changed her life forever but her story illustrates the positive outcomes that are possible when people with disabilities are provided with a suitable home to call their own.  “I never thought that it would be possible for me to live independently, because I didn’t have the confidence and courage in myself to do so,” said Yvonne. “However, it was the best move I ever made.”

See Yvonne's video here