'The Future is Accessible' by Keith Hayes | Enable Ireland


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'The Future is Accessible' by Keith Hayes

Man in black jacket and using wheelchair

On International Day of People with Disabilities, it’s a good time to look at the progress we have made in recent years and how we can deliver on this year’s theme and ensure that the ‘Future is Accessible’ for everyone. 

If there is one message I would like people to understand, it is that my disability does not disable me. It is society that can disable me or make me able-bodied. If I can’t get into a building it is because there may not be a ramp to get in, or the doorway is not wide enough. These are some of the examples that can prevent me from being part of society.

A big stumbling block for buildings is if they are listed buildings. We obviously have to have some respect for historical buildings that they cannot be structurally changed on the outside. By being creative we can put ramps in around the back of the building. I see part of my role as a person with a disability is to support and educate society in how we can be more inclusive to cater for all needs whether it is a visual, physical, hearing or intellectual disability.

We have come a long way in the last 10-15 years. Technology is the future and the doorway to a more inclusive society of people with all different abilities. It is here and it is here to stay. Every day new technologies emerge with can opening doors for so many people who have never had such opportunities. For people with disabilities, technology can make things possible. Literally, opening doors with smart home devices that you can control from your phone. I am excited about this. As Technology is developing so fast we all have to keep ourselves up to date with it.

Public Transport has changed in that we have more freedom to be able to use buses, trains and trams but there is still a lot more work to be done to make public transport in Ireland fully accessible for everyone. I see in the future that the trains will have automatic lifts to be able to get onto the train without the support of a person who has to manually put down a ramp.

The general public is changing their perspective towards people with a disability and there is now a lot more integration into society.
People with a disability are now being integrated from childhood into schools, clubs, colleges and workplaces. This didn’t happen in the past people were hidden away in institutions. This new way is very positive for everyone in society. These positive steps need to continue to ensure our future society will be fully accessible to everyone. 

International Day of People with Disabilities is an opportunity to promote awareness and understanding of what it is like living with disabilities in Ireland today. It is a chance for people like me to draw attention to the barriers can I face but, more importantly, how they can be overcome. My hope is that we can all work together towards a future which is accessible to everyone, where people are not excluded because of their disability.

Keith Hayes, Enable Ireland Adult Services Coordinator