TIME TO MAKE WAY: AND BIKES BE­COME

Gorey Guardian - - NEWS - By BREN­DAN KEANE

WEX­FORD County Coun­cil has par­tic­i­pated in an ini­tia­tive aimed at high­light­ing pub­lic aware­ness around how peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties share pub­lic ar­eas such as foot­paths, open spa­ces, car park­ing and other pub­lic spa­ces.

Those with a dis­abil­ity are of­ten com­pro­mised be­cause of the in­con­sid­er­ate ac­tions of able-bod­ied peo­ple.

The Make Way Day cam­paign was or­gan­ised in con­junc­tion with some of the county’s fore­most dis­abil­ity or­gan­i­sa­tions: the Ir­ish Wheel­chair As­so­ci­a­tion (IWA); the Na­tional Coun­cil for the Blind (NCBI); Saoirse Training & Ac­cess Group and Com­mu­nity Work­shop En­nis­cor­thy and New Ross.

The County Coun­cil was one of 15 lo­cal au­thor­i­ties that took part in the ini­tia­tive which was held on Wed­nes­day, Septem­ber 26.

A spokesper­son for the lo­cal author­ity said stick­ers were placed on vans, cars and bi­cy­cles found to be ob­struct­ing foot­paths while bikes and mo­tor­cy­cles chained to lamp­posts were an­other tar­get as such ma­chines can be a trip haz­ard for those who are visu­ally im­paired.

How­ever, il­le­gally placed sand­wich boards, bins, bar­rels and other ob­struc­tions were also tar­geted on the day.

In ad­di­tion to stick­ers be­ing placed on such items peo­ple were also en­cour­aged to share pho­tos of the ob­sta­cles they en­coun­tered us­ing the hash­tag #MakeyWayWex­ford.

The lo­cal author­ity spokesper­son said the or­gan­i­sa­tions that sup­ported the cam­paign un­der­stand that haz­ards are caused in­ad­ver­tently as a re­sult of peo­ple just not think­ing.

‘When peo­ple ob­struct pub­lic foot­paths and other spa­ces by park­ing il­le­gally, erect­ing il­le­gal sand­wich boards or leav­ing waste bins out for pro­longed pe­ri­ods, no mal­ice is in­tended to­wards those with a dis­abil­ity but the haz­ard oc­curred sim­ply through a lack of aware­ness and thought­ful­ness,’ he said.

The Ac­cess Of­fi­cer with Wex­ford County Coun­cil, Caro­line Ho­ran, said the day was an op­por­tu­nity to over­come the pub­lic’s lack of aware­ness to­wards the needs of peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

She also said it was about open­ing the gen­eral pub­lic’s eyes about haz­ards pre­sented to peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties as they go about their ev­ery­day lives.

‘Make Way Day re­minds us that 13 per cent of the Ir­ish pop­u­la­tion have a dis­abil­ity and their needs must be con­sid­ered, par­tic­u­larly in the con­text of shared pub­lic spa­ces,’ said Ms Ho­ran.

‘Bring­ing in your bin early in the day or clip­ping your hedge might not seem that im­por­tant but it’s a small ac­tion with a big im­pact for a neigh­bour who oth­er­wise might not be able to get down the street,’ she added.

Lo­cal ac­tivist and dis­abil­ity cam­paigner, Theresa Car­ley from Wex­ford IWA, took part in the cam­paign and is fully aware of the po­ten­tial haz­ards that ex­ist.

‘There have been days when I just had to turn around and go home be­cause my wheel­chair could not go around a parked car on the foot­path,’ she said.

‘If you come across enough ob­sta­cles like these you even­tu­ally don’t want to go out at all and that’s leads to so­cial iso­la­tion.’

Bikes parked on foot­paths were one of the tar­gets for Make Way Day.

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