The Echo, 4 December 2015
TALLAGHT blogger and wheelchair user calls for more local awareness around accessibility
By Mary Dennehy
AS NATIONAL Accessibility Week takes places, a Tallaght wheelchair user tells The Echo what it’s really like for disabled people when they’re out and about in local communities.
Living in Bohernabreena, Dee Hoey (41) had to rethink her life in 2005 when, after a brain tumour operation, she was dependant on a wheelchair to get around – and discovered that finding accessible venues was at times a difficult task.
She told The Echo: “I’ve always been an independent person and when I found myself in a wheelchair it wasn’t just a case of getting up and getting out anymore.
“I discovered that going out was hassle as I had to find places that were wheelchair-friendly – and to tell you the truth, some places say they’re wheelchair-friendly but when you get there you could have problems getting in the front door or using the bathrooms.
“In the early days I used to get quite frustrated and embarrassed when I couldn’t access a building or when an aisle in a shop was too narrow or tight for me to travel down.
“However, I’m used to it now, I’ve realised that there is no point getting annoyed and I simply raise the issue with staff.
“I also tend to go back to the same places or places where other wheelchair users recommend.”
She added: “In fairness, things are constantly improving and have gotten better over the past ten years.
“I think a lot of the problems are simply down to a lack of awareness and I can understand this at times. Before I was in a wheelchair I never thought about accessibility, it never crossed my mind.
“However, now I know how restricting this lack of awareness can be for wheelchair users, it impedes on our independence, and businesses and community services need to make themselves aware.”
When asked what makes her life most difficult, Dee said: “For me, it’s the parking.
“So many people park in disabled spots without a pass and this means I have to turn around and go home or else try and find two empty spots beside each other so I have space to get my wheelchair out.
“Parking illegally in disabled spots is not monitored, people know that it’s not enforced and that they won’t get clamped or fined, so they continue to do it.
“I definitely think this is one area that needs to be focused on.”
She added: “I think Accessibility Week is a great idea, we all need to work together in raising awareness around accessibility and try and make it part and parcel of our society like in other countries, such as France and South Africa.”
Dee runs a blog called Out and About in a Wheelchair in Ireland, an independent guide which lists venues and their accessibility.
The easy-to-use blog, formatted like a directory, boasts a catalogue of local, city-wide and national venues, and their accessibility in terms of wheelchair use.
When it first went live, the blog stemmed from Dee’s personal experiences. She now invites her fellow wheelchair users to submit their experiences when accessing pubs, bars, shopping centres, cinemas, restaurants and much more.
National Accessibility Week is running in South Dublin County until December 7, during which councils, businesses and community groups across the country are highlighting the accessibility of their facilities and services, with the week aiming to encourage the wider community to be more inclusive of the varied access needs of disabled people.