Garry Toner, an Equality Studies student here in UCD is trying to organise an awareness campaign at a national level in relation to the rights of people with disabilities after an incident that occurred last weekend.
I am currently doing a Masters degree in Equality at UCD. I am an electric wheelchair user who has limited mobility. Last Friday night one of my classmates had a birthday party in a bar in Dublin. She had checked with the owner that the pub was wheelchair accessible to which he replied "yes, certainly, your friend will be able to access our pub". However, when I arrived there was a large step which I couldn't possibly access. At this point the owner suggested that the bouncers would lift my chair; to which I replied no as my chair weighs approximately 15 stone without me in it. They then suggested making a makeshift ramp with wood. This consisted of two pieces of wood which was extremely dangerous. Again I had to refuse, so finally they said they would make another attempt.
So what happened? Well, first of all wood was put down on the ground, followed by bricks and finally this huge metal, shutter contraption. I took the risk and went up this contraption. I made it in and then got a swift drink! Then I began to worry how I was going to get out again.
I was again placed on the ramp in front of the pub, with about 20 people outside looking on, and another 20 looking through the window; which made me feel extremely embarrassed and as if I was on public display! It was obvious risks were being taken with the make shift ramp. Before the wheelchair went down the ramp one of the staff accidentally pulled at the bar on my wheelchair, nearly breaking it. My wheelchair shot down the ramp, I lost control of it and nearly went over the curb into the traffic. Fortunately, I was able to somehow regain control of my wheelchair; narrowly preventing what could have been a very serious accident.
While the manager was helpful in organising the night, he wasn’t truthful in saying that the pub was wheelchair accessible. I like everyone else, love the craic. But it is very difficult when faced with obstacles like this when I want to go for a night out. I am from the North, where due to the Disability Discrimination Act, all public buildings must be wheelchair accessible, otherwise they could face court action. Why can’t we have the same legislation here?
We are currently running a campaign at UCD looking at how these difficulties could be overcome. What we are suggesting as a solution is that every pub, café, restaurant and bingo hall in Ireland should be in possession of a removable wheelchair ramp that cost only €87.00. The profits that pubs make on a Friday night would make this a drop in the ocean. And these removable ramps could be stored anywhere in the pub.
These ramps are available online at www.yourableshop.co.uk/modules/shop/products
Has anyone else had a similar experience?