AN ENNIS wheelchair user has raised major concerns over the lack of accessibility for people with disabilities working, living and shopping in the county town.
Speaking to The Clare People, Conor O’Sullivan, who has been in a wheelchair for almost 30 years following an acquired disability, was keen to highlight his belief that many paths around Ennis are hazardous to those with physical disabilities.
Along with local election candidate Donna McGettigan (SF), Conor is now urging local businesses to sign up to a disability access audit, in a bid to see if their premises are accessible.
“As a disabled person, the footpaths in Ennis are not really wide enough,” he said.
“We have gone into premises before and when we approach a building they [business owners] say ‘oh it’s an old building’, which is no excuse.
“I’m sure there is money within the council coppers to really review the whole idea of access in Ennis,” Conor added.
With this in mind, Mr O’Sullivan believes that the benefits of businesses improving disability access are twofold.
“It opens up new customers coming in – disabled customers,” he said.
“I am lucky enough that I have my wife who is able bodied and with her assistance I am able to get around quite easily.
“But without her assistance I would have issues,” added the Ennis resident.
Conor agreed that previous proposals to pedestrianise O’Connell Street in Ennis would have been an ideal solution to many accessibility issues in the county town, but that a lot more needs to be done.
“Something we want to highlight in the main street in Ennis is that there is only one disabled parking bay,” he said.
“It is hard enough as it is.
“It is a shame that so many things are being overlooked when it comes to access.
“We want to tell businesses in Ennis that if you employ a disabled person, that there are grants for adapting buildings,” Conor added.
We are in the 21st century, why are we blocking people from living?
Having made contact with up to 50 businesses in Ennis, Raven Holistics on the Mill Road in Ennis were the first to sign up for the innovative initiative.
“I do think that if there is more awareness, a lot of businesses will be willing to work with
“I have a background in hairdressing so I have seen people [with disabilities] trying to get into hair salons and it’s a nightmare,” she added.
Urging local businesses to follow suit and sign up, Donna McGettigan said that many traders in the town are unaware of the many grants available them.
“We are not going in heavy handed saying your shop is bad,” she explained.
“We are actually giving them options that you can upgrade your premises to allow people with wheelchairs, people with blind issues, and deaf issues to be able to go in and do their shopping.
“People need to feel safe in an area and to feel welcome.
“There are footpaths that Conor cannot get up.
“Even though they are a drop down footpath, they are not actually flush with the ground so he still has to come up on the path and go out on to main busy roads.
“Our aim is to highlight the issues and let everyone know.
“We are in the 21st century, why are we blocking people from living?
“Conor would be more or less a prisoner in his own home if it wasn’t for his wife,” Donna concluded.
Issues highlighted by the campaign include accessibility to wheelchair users, the need for an improvement of steps and kerbs, a lack of signal equipment for hearing impaired, and designed parking for people with disabilities.