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Dublin: 13°C Tuesday 19 October 2021

Column: 'We need fines for cars parked on footpaths and for wheelie bins'

I don’t mind at all having a disability but when I face obstacles, it is very frustrating, writes Sean O’Kelly.

Sean O'Kelly Student and disability activist

MANY OF YOU will have heard by now about the campaign that former Lord Mayor of Dublin Brendan Carr has set up clamping down on obstacles on footpaths. These obstacles include parked cars, bins, sandwich boards, tables and chairs from cafes.

The council released a statement stating that Brendan Carr was going to have a vote on allowing people with disabilities to use cycle lanes. This turned out to be a hoax statement.

When I heard the statement on a radio station though, I initially thought it was a good idea.

It’s good to get the conversation going

When I read a report online on the topic I thought it wasn’t a good solution to the obstacles faced by people with disabilities. But I believed it was true.

The reason why I disagreed with it is because it is very dangerous for wheelchair users to use the cycle lanes on the side of a main road. I do, however, think it was good to get a conversation going by sending out that statement.

I took part in an event which was organised by the DFI in conjunction with Dublin City Council at the end of January in which Brendan Carr wanted to hear the voices of people with disabilities to find out what struggles we, as people in society, have with the built environment and infrastructure around us.

I was very happy when this was launched because it shows that Brendan Carr was able to act on the many obstacles people with a range of disabilities have on a regular basis.

It can be frustrating

I would like to give you one example where I was faced with a barrier. Last week, I was asked to go into a radio station to be part of an interview on this topic. I asked the station if they could order a taxi for me because I wasn’t able to get a lift in and I knew that the taxi drivers who I regularly use would most likely not be free.

They agreed to order a taxi for me. I got a call from the station to say that the taxi company had rang them to tell them that despite the station ordering a wheelchair accessible taxi an hour before the appointed time, there were none available.

I don’t mind at all having a disability, but when I face obstacles it is very frustrating.

I would love to see this campaign being rolled out to every council in the country because this isn’t just a problem in Dublin, it’s a problem nationwide. It would also be more effective if fines were implemented for people who park on footpaths. Cafes or shops that use sandwich boards need to review how they advertise their menus too.

Imagine being in our shoes

I hope that the new Lord Mayor of Dublin, Mícheál Mac Donnacha, will continue the work that Brendan started in making Dublin a more inclusive place for everyone.

I’ll finish up here with yet another example of an obstacle that I have encountered. It happened a couple of weeks ago. I was in Blackrock. Up ahead of me I saw a large van blocking most of the pavement. I had no hope of getting past the van on the pavement so I had to go on a bit of the grass which was being cut at the time.

My final message to all of you reading this is imagine being in our shoes, be it wheelchair users, people on crutches, blind people, and think about where you’re about to park your car or wheelie bin. Could it cause an obstruction? If so park them elsewhere.

Sean O’Kelly is a 24-year-old Marketing and Digital Media student. He’s also an activist for disabled rights. 

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About the author:

Sean O'Kelly  / Student and disability activist

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