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Brittle bones: 'It means that my bones break easily and I cannot walk very far'

Ratifying the UNCRPD is incredibly important for people like me, writes Amy Hassett.

Amy Hassett Disability Rights Coordinator UCD

ON 30 MARCH 2007, the Irish government signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). Almost 11 years have passed, and I, a disabled person, am still waiting.

The UNCRPD is a convention that was drawn up by the United Nations and states that people like me, who have a disability, are entitled to the same rights as everyone else, and that government should put in place the necessary supports and systems to ensure we have those rights.

This means that I will be given the same opportunity to be part of Irish society and puts pressure on the government to make that happen.

Ratifying the UNCRPD would mean a great deal to people with disabilities, and to me. I moved up from Wexford to Dublin four years ago when I started studying science in UCD.

Brittle bones

My condition is called brittle bones, and it means that my bones break easily. It also means that I cannot walk very far and must use an electric wheelchair.

I lived on campus in first year, but that became too expensive by the time I started second year, so I had to try find somewhere else to live. It was nearly impossible to find accommodation in Dublin that is wheelchair friendly. That was an incredibly stressful process.

If it weren’t for a pretty nice landlord, I’m fairly sure I would be commuting up from Wexford every day. That would mean calling Wexford train station everyday so that I could get onto the 5.40 train in the morning, and I would still only get to college after 9.

If I could get onto the bus, then I could be on time – but they aren’t accessible at all. If the UNCRPD were to be ratified, I (and others) could start lobbying the government for more affordable wheelchair-accessible accommodation and better transport systems.

Needing to always plan ahead

Quite often I have difficulty getting into public buildings, shops and restaurants and getting around Dublin City. This can be very frustrating and means that I everything I do has to be planned well in advance.

Ratifying the UNCRPD would allow me to campaign for buildings and areas to be more accessible so that I could do things without planning ahead.

If I were to break a bone, I would also need extra help in looking after myself (ie I would need help dressing myself, showering etc). Ratifying the UNCRPD would ensure that the government wouldn’t be able to cut funding for the supports that I would need when that happens.

UCD’s campaign

As part of my role as UCD Student’s Union Disability Rights Coordinator, we have launched a campaign to raise awareness about the UNCRPD and have called for its ratification. We have produced a video that has been viewed over 30,000 times.

The response that we have received from this campaign and video has been amazingly positive. It has shown us, once again, that people do care about this issue.

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Ireland has a proud history of giving equal rights to minority groups. In 2014, I watched as we became the first country in the world to legalise gay marriage through a referendum. In doing this Ireland stood up and said that it cares about the LGBTQ+ community.

As a member of both the LGBTQ+ and “disabled” communities, I don’t understand why our government won’t do the same for the 13.5% of Irish people who have a disability.

We matter

Ratifying the UNCRPD would tell all people in Ireland with a disability, including myself, that we matter. It would tell me, and the other 643,000 people like me, that we are important and that should be treated the same way as everyone else.

But although ratifying the UNCRPD is incredibly important, it won’t change things for people with disabilities overnight. It will, however, give us the much-needed platform to start campaigning for better services, better treatment, and a fairer society.

It is the first step on a long road, but it is one that we need to take.

Amy Hassett is a 4th year physiology student at UCD. She’s also the Disability Rights Coordinator for UCD Student’s Union.

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About the author:

Amy Hassett  / Disability Rights Coordinator UCD

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