Concern for those for whom social distance is impossible

April 5 2020

Tactile signing - Part A

Disability Federation of Ireland, DFI, Press Release April 5th – Immediate Release

Concern for those for whom social distance is impossible

There are thousands of health and social care workers facing the Corona virus for whom social isolation or distancing is not a workable solution.

For example, at the Anne Sullivan Centre for Deafblind, care staff can’t wear gloves.  For deafblind people most communication is tactile, hand over hand and touch is everything. “Many of the protocols recommended by Government are just not practical for us to implement”, said their CEO Grace Kelly-Hartnett.

Residents usually recognise staff by touch and any protective layer would see them lost and isolated in already challenging circumstances.

The Disability Federation of Ireland, DFI, are pleased to see the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, prioritising support to residential settings this week. Because self-isolation is not an option in settings like Anne Sullivan or for many other organisations which DFI represents.

 “We have 120 member organisations who are responding magnificently to this crisis. Their reactions are immediate as you would expect with work with vulnerable groups. But in the background is an unfolding cash flow crisis as most rely on a mixture of State and fund-raising support and the latter has collapsed” said Dr Joanne McCarthy, DFI’s Director of Policy.

“The need for a bailout or support package is clear. There are the same set of challenges facing voluntary organisations as faced by our hospitals in maintaining staffing. And our organisations have unique challenges like those faced by Anne Sullivan and others providing home support and Personal Assistance or PA services”.

Internationally concerns have also been raised by the Council of Europe and European platforms that DFI belong to.  Joint Statement by European Disability Forum, European Network on Independent Living European Deafblind Union 

Council of Europe

“Everyone is working flat out across the health services and the voluntary organisations to ensure that nobody is left behind (or without assistance). But in order to continue to pay their bills and stay solvent, a bailout package is now urgently needed for voluntary organisation”, said Dr Mc Carthy.


For further information contact;


DFI Communications Manager: Clare Cronin at 086 0277824,