Disability is a major issue in Irish society. There are almost 600,000 people living with a disability or chronic illness. That’s 13% of the population, or one in every eight people. People living with a disability are a substantial, but all too invisible section of our society. Being disabled is a social and economic issue, as much as an individual one. People Before Profit is dedicated to providing the environment in which all people, particularly those with extra challenges, can reach their full potential. Regrettably, this is far from the case currently in Ireland.
A 1993 Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities noted that “People with disabilities are the neglected citizens of Ireland…The picture that emerges is one of a society which excludes people with disabilities from almost every aspect of economic, social, political and cultural life. People with disabilities and their families made it clear that they want equality; they want to move from a reliance on charity towards establishing basic rights. They want, and are entitled to, equality and full participation as citizens.”
Since 1993 nothing much has changed. In fact, as reported by the Disability Federation of Ireland, funding cuts in public services over recent years have disproportionately affected people with a lived experience of disability, many of whom were already surviving on disposable incomes below the poverty threshold.
On top of the planning and infrastructure obstacles that already existed, this hidden minority has felt the effects of austerity to an exceptional degree. Cuts in the areas of housing, healthcare, education, transport services, public employment and others have all disproportionately affected people with a disability. In other words, the situation for this community is getting worse, as their rights continue to be eroded.
This pattern reflects a broader trend in Irish political life that sees the chance to achieve full equality for persons with a disability thwarted by successive governments taking a ‘for-profit’ approach, instead of respecting the needs of the individuals and families affected. People are entitled to better.