Katie Kelly (25) from Kilkenny is pictured chairing the recent Irish Wheelchair Association campaign launch with guest including Anne Rabbitte Minister of State with Responsibility for Disability.

New housing campaign to tackle accessible housing shortage in Offaly

This week the Irish Wheelchair Association launched a new awareness campaign exposing the barriers people with disabilities face to find wheelchair accessible housing in Offaly and across Ireland.

‘Home Truths: Because everyone deserves a place to call home’, highlights the experience of people with disabilities in the housing market and the absence of wheelchair liveable housing across the country.

Five Irish Wheelchair Association members have shared their own personal home truths in a series of videos which lay bare the harsh and poignant challenges they face. For Glenn Quinn (61), one of the video participants, that means the indignity of having to crawl up the stairs to get to bed. Glenn and other members featured across national news airwaves and TV in recent days have shared their stories and called on the government for more action.

Supported under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) Grant Scheme the project was officially launched by Anne Rabbitte, Minister of State with responsibility for Disability, in Dublin this week.

The Home Truths campaign is about giving a platform to people with disabilities to raise their housing issues, according to IWA National Housing Programme Manager, Jean Coleman. “The participants all tell a different story, and they reflect what our membership is experiencing throughout the country including Offaly.

“Their stories highlight the need for more wheelchair liveable housing, the inadequacies of Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), and the need for local authorities and the HSE to work more closely together to ensure that there is a personal assistant service in place in tandem with a person being allocated a house,” she said. "The housing crisis in Ireland has been well documented but our campaign, shows that for people with disabilities it is a crisis within a crisis and particularly if you are a wheelchair user."

Thanking the Irish Wheelchair Association members who shared their stories, Minister Rabbitte, said that it is important that the lived experience of people with disabilities are heard to help shape national policy, and reinforced the Government’s commitment to facilitate people with disabilities to live independently, as reflected in the National Housing Strategy for Disabled People 2002-2027.

“We want to deliver improved housing and related supports. This strategy makes sure that disabled people are at the centre of decision making when it comes to housing, giving them more choice, and control over where, how and who they live with, and promoting their inclusion in the community,” she said.

In recent years the Irish Wheelchair Association's annual Think Ahead Think Housing campaign has encouraged people with disabilities who wish to live in their own homes, to apply to their local authority for social housing. This will ensure that people with disabilities are included in social housing planning and delivery in the future.

National Director of IWA Services, Tony Cunningham, said: “People with physical disabilities who want to live independently but cannot find wheelchair liveable housing cannot continue to be caught in an endless housing crisis, and forced to live in unsuitable, inaccessible housing. But local authorities can only plan housing developments for the people on their lists. If you haven't applied for housing the local authority cannot support you. Irish Wheelchair Association is appealing to our members, if you are worried about where you will live in the future, apply to your local authority now."

According to the Summary of Social Housing Assessment 2022 there are almost 5,000 people with disabilities, including physical, mental, intellectual, sensory and others, waiting for social housing from their local authority. IWA believes this figure is an under-representation of the actual need based on several factors including people not thinking ahead until such time as a crisis arises like parents passing on, as well as the cumbersome, lengthy application process which some people can find daunting. Irish Wheelchair Association centres in Offaly and across Ireland are supporting members who want to apply to their local authority for housing. For more details see www.iwa.ie