10 years on big improvement in wheelchair access

LORCAN DOWD was a campaigner for the rights of people in wheelchairs in Kilkenny. He gave disabled people a voice and criticised the difficulty people in wheelchairs encountered when they tried to go out and socialise.

LORCAN DOWD was a campaigner for the rights of people in wheelchairs in Kilkenny. He gave disabled people a voice and criticised the difficulty people in wheelchairs encountered when they tried to go out and socialise.

Mr Dowd, who lost his battle with Muscular Dystrophy in 2002, had worked to highlight the issues that he faced as a wheelchair user in both the pages of this paper and in the national press. He had raised the issue of access to public bathrooms, pubs and clubs, naming and shaming many of the venues that he had difficulty getting into. He had been working as a multi-media trainer in the Ft McGrath centre and he wanted to go out and socialise after work he found that the infrastructure to support him wasn’t present in Kilkenny.

Martin Costello, from the Irish Wheelchair Association, said that in the last ten years things have improved greatly for wheelchair users in Kilkenny. “There has been a great improvement,” he said. “People can now move around. Years ago you couldn’t go into shops or you would have to ask someone to go in for you, but now you can.” Despite the improvement Mr Costello said things are still far from perfect. He said that the ramps on to pavements need to be maintained and that in some places they are too steep.

Evelyn Graham, an architect with Kilkenny County Council, explained that a lot of the changes in both legislation, awareness and access came about due to a change in the model that was used to view disabled people. MS Graham explained that previously a “medical model” had been used but that in recent years they have changed to a “social model”. The social model puts more emphasis on the rights of the disabled people, including them in both the planning and the day to day unctions of the world.

Lorcan Dowd has already been honoured for the work he did in highlighting the needs of people in wheelchairs. The Fr McGrath installed a new lift and they named it in his honour.

Mr Dowd’s anniversary coincides with the Muscular Dystrophy Ireland National Awareness Campaign which takes places from the 11th-14th of February. The National “Have a Heart” Awareness Campaign Muscular Dystrophy Ireland is asking people to buy a box of two heart shaped Lily O’Briens chocolates for just €2 or a scented candle for €3. The money raised will be used to fund the respite support services and medical research into muscular dystrophy.

The Lorcan Dowd memorial cycle will take place on Satruday April 28th in Kilkenny – see facebook Lorcan Dowd Memorial Cycle or 056 7765937 for further information.