Disability – a human rights perspective

22/03/2017

Irish people with disabilities urgently need greater legal protections, writes Gary Lee in the March 2017 Gazette.

Disability in Ireland

Today in Ireland, there are at least 3,000 people with disabilities living in institutions, with a further 1,100 under the age of 65 inappropriately placed in nursing homes. Census data shows that Irish people with disabilities have significantly poorer educational outcomes and job opportunities, and are far more likely to experience poverty than their non-disabled peers.

Ordinary things like choosing what time to get up, what to have for breakfast, and what to wear are denied to many – as is accessing public transport, socialising, marrying, having a family, and other norms of life. Basic challenges arise; for example, if you are a wheelchair user, you have to give at least 24 hours’ notice to Iarnód Éireann should you wish to use the DART.

A failure of inaction

100 years after proclaiming a free and independent Ireland that would give “equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens”, Gary Lee writes, people with disabilities in Ireland are less well-off and enjoy fewer legal protections than their peers in Britain. Indeed, Ireland’s decade-old National Disability Strategy is founded upon three statutes, none of which has been fully commenced.

Perhaps most discouraging of all, Lee suggests, is Ireland’s failure to ratify the first major international human rights treaty of the 21st century, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). In a ‘viewpoint’ article for the March Gazette, Lee makes the case for speedy ratification of this convention, and a change in how the state approaches the rights of people with disabilities.

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