DONEGAL TIMES

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March 27th 2002

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Damning Indictment
of Local Planning

Lack of facilities for disabled highlighted

By Cath Waugh

I read the piece in the Times and yes the ‘Does he take sugar’ syndrome is definitely alive and well. In general people assume that they know what is best for a person with a disability. This can be at any level, from well meaning family and friends to shop assistants, council employees, architects, medics, TD’s, etc. - an endless list of endless people all ignoring, for whatever reason, the person who invariably knows best what he or she requires.

In most instances if one needs a problem solved, one asks an expert or at least someone who will know more than oneself. Why then do people imagine that this should be any different for those of us with a disability, whatever form that disability may take? We are the experts in our field - we know what we need - it is not to be ignored or degraded in everything we try to do.

From my own perspective I regard myself as having a physical impairment, with that impairment only becoming a disability when I am prevented from carrying out whatever it is that I want or need to do. Invariably, it is the lack of access for the wheelchair that I need to use that disables me, and the ignorance of those around who think they know best.

Firstly, living in the country means there is no public transport and, even if there was, there is no wheelchair accessible public transport in SW Donegal. On a positive point, I do have my free transport pass for whenever the necessary public transport arrives!

In Donegal Town there are three designated pedestrian crossings around the Diamond - although this does not mean that pedestrians have right of way. Two of them have crosses to denote that parking is illegal. At the third, outside the Abbey Hotel, it is still legal to park despite my having asked the Co. Council at Lifford and in Donegal Town several times that a cross be placed on the road to make parking illegal. Even if this was done there is still the problem of the footpath outside the Abbey. It is in such a poor state that it is dangerous for a wheelchair user to try and cross the road there unaided. How many adults do you know who can’t cross the road unaided, not because they’re incapable of so doing but due to the appalling state of the concrete or tarmac underfoot?

You might think that Donegal is fairly flat and so would at least be wheelchair accessible, if not wheelchair friendly - the difference being that one is possible the other is easy. Take the time to look at the access in and to the various shops, hotels etc. and you will soon see the nightmare that shopping etc. can be. This is also a reality for those with buggies and pushchairs and also for those we should show the most respect to, our elderly. This applies to many towns and cities and not just to those in Donegal and Ireland.

I’m told Pier 1 is lovely upstairs but I’ll never know firsthand as there’s no lift. I can get in through the main doors but, if I need the toilets, I have to ask for the side door to be opened, go outside and round the building in order to access the facilities. Remember this is a brand new building and since January 2001 there are rules and regulations that have to be adhered to. I assume that planning permission was applied for before this date but I haven’t checked that yet.

In the Millpark, to access the ballroom, I have to go through the conservatory, up a ramp outside and enter through the fire doors. I am also unable to buy a drink at the bar because it is inaccessible to wheelchairs. In February 2001 the then manager told me that a wooden ramp was being built - I suggest they change their carpenter! The leisure centre is also of restricted use, as to access the gym I would have to get changed in the changing rooms, go outside through the foyer, up a floor in the lift, through the bedroom areas to the gym. No thank you!

Most all the other hotels and eating establishments have problems with access as well. At Harvey’s Point the dance floor is inaccessible, the Central Hotel’s access to the restaurant is through a side door - the list is endless.

Shops are also difficult. Magee’s has no lift to the first floor. Magee’s Millcourt was fairly recently revamped and looks really good but several of the buildings are inaccessible to a wheelchair. This you discover after you’ve come from the car park and dared to use the ramp at the back! It would be no more expensive to have ramps than not, it merely requires some forethought and discussion with the experts in the planning stages.

I can’t get into the offices of our local radio station, our local paper or our local women’s network. There are steps to the optician, dentists, one of the GP’s. In our local hospital, I had an appointment with a medical officer who used an upstairs office. She knew beforehand that I was a wheelchair user but was really flustered when I couldn’t get to her office and alternative arrangements had to be made - I was prepared to shout from the bottom of the stairs to the top because I’ve had to do that before!

At the Supervalu arcade some of the shops are so crammed it’s impossible to get round. The disabled toilets there are sometimes occupied by school kids or staff and the disabled parking spaces are used by goodness knows whom. If someone with no right or need parks there and on return finds a vehicle with a disabled card parked behind them, it’s probably me and I make no apologies. I and many others need that space, what on earth is an able-bodied person’s reason for being there?

The disabled parking bays in the main car park are extremely inconvenient, especially for someone with limited walking. Surely, at least one parking space should be near one of the chemists. Why is there not at least one disabled parking space around the Diamond?
I could go on and on but I’m sure you’ve got the idea of how frustrating I find it to be denied access simply because my legs don’t work like most peoples. I didn’t choose to have my physical impairment, but I accept that it’s a part of who and what I am. I’m not looking for pity - there’s good as well as bad that comes out of my physical impairment, but I do want the right to live my life as fully as possible. That will only happen when people at all levels of our society think about the impact their actions have on others and when I am no longer disabled by society’s approach to my wheelchair.

Sorry I got somwhat carried away, but I am passionate about the injustices that all disadvantaged people face, not just the disabled but also asylum seekers, unemployed, rural women, single parents etc. We need to stand up to these injustices and educate the perpetrators of these diabolical attitudes if our situations are ever to change for the better.

Cath

Heritage Festival Great Success

Hoist the Jolly Roger - Pirates sail into town manning the Sub Aqua Club ship at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade
in the process winning first prize for the best float.

A great week of celebration culminating in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday 17th, made this year’s Heritage Festival an unqualified success. Donegal Times has comprehensive coverage of events on other pages - suffice here to return thanks to the hard working committee members who planned, directed and supervised the whole operation. So take a bow Patricia Callaghan, Eddie Marshall, Lynda O’Donnell, Wendy McCarry, Simon Waugh, Aidan Haughey and Nigel Weir.

However, now is the time for this committee to start planning for next year. Good acts and bands are hard to come by - the proliferation of festivities all over the country means a dearth of top-class performers as those normally available are in big demand to cover the multitude of events on this par

ticular week. The only hope is to start straight away in search of next year’s attractions. The big crowds that flocked into town, particularly over the final weekend, benefited most businesses and these should now be approached to sponsor (or co-sponsor) an act or band. This would allow organisers go out to negotiate with the means in hand to entice the best to town.

Well done to all who took part in the 10 days of events and particularly congratulations to the Sub Aqua Club who won the best float award in the parade and the Magee shop which lifted the best shop window award.

Goodbye F.C.A. - Welcome Reserve Defence Force

Comdt. Tony Meehan B Coy 24th Bn with ex-Serviceman P.J. McGowan, an honorary member of B Coy.

St Patrick’s Day 2002 in Donegal Town was an historic day for members of the new reserve defence force who marked the day with military ceremonies to commemorate the passing of the F.C.A. and to welcome the new reserve defence force which is to become an integral part of the army, resulting in major changes in its role and equipment.

The day, for members of B Company, 24th Battalion, started with Comdt Tony Meehan inspecting the troops, resplendent in their new ‘distorted pattern uniform’. This uniform is one of the many visible changes, alongside new weapons and training procedures, that are being put in place to bring the reserve into line with the permanent defence force and indeed other armies within the United Nations. Members in future will play a more active role, with integration into the army leading up to the possibility of overseas service. Major changes indeed since the days of the L.D.F!

After the inspection of the troops, the tradition of the Company Commander presenting a sprig of shamrock to each soldier was carried out. These were proudly worn behind each person’s cap badge.

A connection to those who served during the ‘Emergency’ was evident when Comdt. Meehan presented octogenarian P.J. McGowan with a shamrock. P.J. is an honorary member of B Coy and a frequent visitor to the barracks in Donegal and Finner.

Again, the honour of leading the parade fell to B Company. The main body under Capt. L Thomas followed the colour party under Lt. M Nevin. ‘Eyes right’ was given as the company passed the reviewing stand and Comdt. Meehan took the salute, as is the custom.

The company ended the day back at Headquarters at the Mullins where the main topic of conversation was of those past members of the F.C.A and L.D.F. who were the foundation of today’s force. Their service and loyalty was the cornerstone of the new reserve and those now serving will always remember them.

B Company 24th Battalion covers an area of South-West Donegal from the Gweebarra to Bundoran and is open to both male and female recruits. It has been the starting point for many who went on to serve full-time in the army and many of its former members are serving on peace-keeping missions in Lebanon, Ethiopia, Kosovo, East Timor and many other war zones throughout the world. It looks forward to maintaining its proud tradition within the new force long into the future.

Scenes from St Patrick's Day Parade

Goretti Sweeney, Alice Kelly and Audrey Irwin with Stormy Stan pose in front of Waveney Lifeboat

Donegal Town Mayor Alex Reid meets the cast of the Parent and Toddler Float.

The Donegal Town Parent and Toddler group would like to thank all the people who helped them prepare the float for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. This hard work was well rewarded with the winning of a trophy. They are Martin McGowan (transport), Martin Fowley, John Gildea, Martin McGowan (Donegal Town Hardware Store) and of course all the parents and children. Well done everyone. We would also like to thank the Donegal Town Heritage Committee who sponsored minerals, sweets and medals for the children. The group meet every Tuesday morning in the St. John Bosco centre 10.30am. to noon.


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