December 10, 2023


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People with disabilities enduring a crisis within a crisis when it comes to housing, says IWA#People #disabilities #enduring #crisis #crisis #housing #IWA

Glen Quinn is forced to crawl up his stairs multiple times a day, using his knuckles for support to get to his bed and bathroom.

Despite being a wheelchair user as a result of a degenerating medical condition, Mr Quinn lives in a two-storey apartment in Dublin.

He is one of almost 5,000 people with a disability, including physical, mental, intellectual, sensory, and others waiting for accessible social housing, according to the Summary of Social Housing Assessment 2022.

However, the Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA) believes this figure is an under-representation of the actual need based on several factors.

Those include people not thinking ahead until a crisis arises such as parents passing on, as well as “the cumbersome, lengthy application process” which some people can find daunting, the IWA said.

Mr Quinn is one of several voices brought to the forefront in a campaign launched by the IWA which highlights the lived experience of people with disabilities in Ireland’s housing market.

The 61-year-old said trying to find somewhere to live is tough enough at the moment, but it is “even tougher” for those living with disabilities.

He is due to be evicted from his rented accommodation in Dublin and is “desperately seeking” alternative accessible accommodation.

“When you go into a wheelchair, you realise every day is a marathon. You present yourself to somebody in housing and often the person you’re leaning to has no experience in that field, trying to direct you in terms of: ‘You’ve got HAP, off you go’ but not realising the difficulties that you encounter,” he said.

Mr Quinn said he needs a ground-level apartment so he can “function as a human being”.

“Dealing with the councils, which I’ve been doing now for the past five years, despite doctors’ letters, specialist reports, occupational physio reports, I’ve still been left in my current accommodation situation,” he said.

Crisis within a crisis

IWA National Housing Programme Manager, Jean Coleman, said the housing crisis in Ireland has been well documented, but this campaign shows that for people with disabilities, it is a crisis within a crisis, particularly for wheelchair users.

“Their stories highlight the need for more wheelchair-liveable housing, the inadequacies of Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), and the need for local authorities and the HSE to work more closely together to ensure that there is a personal assistant service in place in tandem with a person being allocated a house,” she said.

Ms Coleman said the crisis within a crisis due to Ireland’s national building regulations currently only provide for wheelchair-visitable and not wheelchair-liveable housing.

National Director of IWA Services, Tony Cunningham, said that “accessible” properties in Ireland currently mean a wheelchair user can get in the front door and access a room, but not that they could live there, use the bathroom, or sleep.

“Without changes to the building regulations, people with physical disabilities will continue to be caught in an endless housing crisis, and forced to live in unsuitable, inaccessible housing.” 

Katie Kelly who lives in Ballyragget in Kilkenny applied for social housing as her rural family home had become “a prison”, she said.

“I got a phone call to say I was accepted for the housing but that’s three years ago and I’ve heard absolutely nothing,” she said.

Ms Kelly wishes to move into Kilkenny city where she can get a job and “get my own little home that I can call mine”.

“When I ring the council office, they’re hanging up on me. We don’t have a right and we don’t have a voice, we’re kind of pushed off into a corner,” she said.

She has a muscle-wasting condition called Friedreich Ataxia, which affects speech and co-ordination.

Katie Kelly had heard nothing for three years since she got a phone call to say she was accepted for social housing.
Katie Kelly had heard nothing for three years since she got a phone call to say she was accepted for social housing.

“The older I get, the worse I’m going to get,” she said.

Although volunteering for four hours each week, she said the rest of her time is spent alone, “doing nothing”.

“I’m looking to live a life with purpose, that’s all I want,” she said.

Since her interview for the campaign, Ms Kelly has been contacted by Kilkenny County Council to say that there should be a new build ready for her by Christmas 2024.

#People #disabilities #enduring #crisis #crisis #housing #IWA

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