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Clare TD, Violet-Anne Wynne (SF) pens an op-ed highlighting ‘the systemic violence which is holding Disabled People’ hostage.

After almost two years of sitting on the Disability Matters Committee – I’m still unaccustomed to the depravity experienced by Disabled People, who are trying to live a fulfilled life, on an equal basis to others, when trying to access services in this country. After being elected, when I found out I would be sitting on the DMC, I was genuinely optimistic – finally, I thought, an opportunity to inform government policy on Disabled People’s human rights.

I wanted to understand why services to support independent living are so rare, so evasive, so hard to access especially in rural regions like West Clare where I live with my family. My son is 9. He was diagnosed with autism in 2017. So, over the course of his 4 years of navigating diagnosis – half, or 2 of these years have been during lockdown with zero supports.

Now, countless DMC meetings later, I am acutely aware that my son is not alone. Week in, week out I have witnessed testimonies from resilient Disabled People who are at their wits end and burnt out from advocating for what is their human right. People battling to get any kind of supports or interventions, life as one long exercise in advocacy. Why should people have to make securing supports to live a productive live a lifelong career in itself? This is true across society in fact, it seems like accessing even the basics such as housing and health is a battle for most these days. But for Disabled People, they are continually expected to prove they have a right to their inherent rights. I feel embarrassed as an Oireachtas member to witness this.

People may have impairments but, let’s be clear are they are ‘disabled’ by the State’s denial of necessary supports needed to live a full, meaningful and equal life. If we understand parents need childcare, workers need parental leave, then in the same vein Disabled people need PAS, ISL, speak and language services etc, at the level of need of the individual and on a timely basis.

People who may need access to Personal Assistance Services (PAS) which provides them with an assistant to do whatever they need to do – instead, are given Home Help. This means the state is institutionalising people in their home, depriving people of their liberty. This is in breach of their human rights.

Everyone has the right to live in the community, yet disabled people are relegated to nursing homes. Out of sight, out of mind indeed. Again, depriving people of their liberty, in breach of their human rights. What will it take for Government to take responsibility for their human rights breaches?

People who urgently need specialist therapies for early habitation interventions; are instead offered a few hours in a day-service under a ‘one-size-fits-all’ response that is not person-centred and is most definitely not designed to empower the individual. The Disability Act 2005 legislated for mainstreaming. 16 years on we still have segregating practises, contributing to political and societal ableism.

After two years, it’s frustrating to acknowledge, I have more questions than answers than I did before. Questions, that I pose and submit to Minister Rabbitte and Minister O’Gorman on a regular basis. I am yet to receive a satisfactory response.

When is the moment of reckoning going to come when we recognise that the ‘medical model’ approach, funding coming through the HSE (not known for its efficiency on a good day), is doing more damage than good to the rights of Disabled People and society at large?

The Disabled People’s movement are demanding rights not charity. The tokenistic and dare I say charitable target for transferring young people out of nursing homes in 2022 is quite frankly upsetting, unambitious and degrading to the 1,300 people waiting to reclaim their lives. There needs to be an immediate commitment to close the back door to nursing homes for younger people.

Next year we will celebrate 100 years of Independence for the Republic of Ireland, but we are miles from achieving independent living for Disabled People. The continuation of institutions to accommodate Disabled People as well as other marginalised communities such as asylum seekers is a dark reminder of our legacy as a country – we’re used to, and desensitised to hiding people away.

When will enough be enough? I hope, deeply, that the moment of reckoning is close where we can take an honest look at the systemic violence holding Disabled People hostage; the political and societal ableism limiting them; the institutionalisation of our past haunting us in the present and we this reckoning is harnessed in a genuine political will. We can and must prevent the continued abuse of the human rights of Disabled People.

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