December 3rd is International Day of Persons With Disabilities, an annual occasion designated to join together to support people with disability in our communities, and raise awareness of the importance of creating a future where people with disabilities experience equal opportunity and face no barriers in all aspects of their lives— whether it be going about their day-to-day lives with adequate accessibility in their communities, joining the workforce, or being able to showcase their abilities and reach their goals without facing barriers.
The theme of this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities is “Not All Disabilities Are Visible” which focuses on spreading awareness and understanding of disabilities that are not immediately apparent, such as mental illness, chronic pain or fatigue, sight or hearing impairments, diabetes, brain injuries, neurological disorders, learning differences and cognitive dysfunctions, among others.
According to the WHO World Report on Disability, 15 per cent of the world’s population, or more than 1 billion people, are living with disability. Of this number, it’s estimated 450 million are living with a mental or neurological condition – and two-thirds of these people will not seek professional medical help, largely due to stigma, discrimination and neglect.
Another 69 million individuals are estimated to sustain Traumatic Brain Injuries each year worldwide, while one in 160 children are identified as on the autism spectrum.
These are just some examples of the millions of people currently living with a disability that is not immediately apparent, and a reminder of the importance of removing barriers for all people living with disability, both visible and invisible.
According to the census 2016, the total population with a disability in Kildare is 27,768 i.e. 12.5% of the population.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, isolation, disconnect, disrupted routines and diminished services have greatly impacted the lives and mental well-being of people with disabilities right around the world. Spreading awareness of invisible disabilities, as well as these potentially detrimental – and not always immediately apparent – impacts to mental health, is crucial as the world continues to fight against the virus.
Kildare County Council in partnership with County Kildare Access Network (CKAN) have organised a number of events to mark the day and to raise awareness across our own community.
CKAN are a network of individuals made up of representatives from the 5 local access groups in County Kildare and organisations working towards making County Kildare inclusive and fully accessible to all. As a group they support the removal of physical, attitudinal and communication barriers for all. Working closely as stakeholders with Kildare County Council they regularly participate in street audits to monitor the ongoing development and improvement of our own infrastructure.
The group also work with local businesses and disability organisations such as IWA, KARE, NCBI in identifying priority accessibility issues locally.
CKAN have an excellent collaborative working relationship with Michael Hurley, Access Officer with Kildare County Council and were instrumental in the development of the County Kildare Access Strategy – A Universal Access Approach 2020-2022 which will be launched on 3rd December 2020 to coincide with International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Their Vision is that County Kildare is universal to all and recognised as a leader in universal accessibility. Their Mission is to support the removal of physical, attitudinal and communication barriers for all.
In 2020 CKAN & Kildare County Council were the proud winners of the IPB & LAMA All Ireland Community & Council Award for “Access & Inclusion” and were also the overall winner of the Grand Prix Award with the entry ‘Working to make County Kildare Inclusive and Accessible to all‘.