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How to support your loved one to get a wheelchair accessible home

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by Terry O'Brien, service coordinator with Irish Wheelchair Association in Kerry

As a parent or a sibling, sometimes it is hard to find the balance between encouragement and pressure when we are trying to get our loved ones to think about the future and where they will live as they get older.

While working in Irish Wheelchair Association in Kerry, supporting families across the area, everyday I am meeting disabled people who are being underestimated by society and also left behind by the national housing crisis. Many don’t know where to go or how to start looking for their own home. But help is out there.

I often meet parents who are so hopeful and enthusiastic about their son or daughter’s potential but the struggle for an independent life can seem out of reach for so many. Many people, not just parents, would like to support their child, sibling or friend to live independently and have their own home but don’t know where to start.

The reality is that housing is a critical issue for a person with a disability. In my work across Kerry I regularly meet people who are living in homes that are unsuitable and sometimes even dangerous for their condition. I meet people who cannot figure out where they will live when their parents get older. And I meet parents who are struggling to care for their adult children and are worried about the future.

We know that in Ireland there is a housing shortage. But for a wheelchair user there is a housing absence, a complete lack of any wheelchair liveable housing anywhere. This is why social housing is so vital for people with disabilities, because there are no private rental options there for them at the moment.

However, while local authorities are focusing heavily on building social housing, they are not yet delivering wheelchair liveable housing at the rates that our community needs. In 2021, Irish Wheelchair Association was part of a successful campaign to have ‘wheelchair liveable’ needs included as an option on social housing application forms. Before 2021 it had not even been possible for a disabled person to include their disability requirements in their local authority housing application. This is how far behind we were on accessible social housing in Ireland.

The good news is that now in 2022 all local authorities have new application forms with options to include and register accessibility needs. So there has never been a better time to encourage your loved one to think about their future, the life they want to lead and where they want to live as they get older.

Here are five steps to get started to support your loved one begin their journey.

1) Get the application form: you need to contact your local authority/county council housing department and get the social housing application form. Irish Wheelchair Association has a great online section as part of our ‘Think Ahead Think Housing’ campaign with direct links to all the local authority’s individual application forms www.iwa.ie/services/accessible-housing/think-ahead-think-housing/apply-now/.

2) Get the medical form: There is a separate medical form (Disability and/or Medical Form HMD1) that needs to be filled in and also completed by two medical professionals who work with the applicant. You will possibly need to contact for example your GP, Public Health Nurse or Occupational Therapist and Social Worker for support with your application.

3) Ask for help, a lot: There are a number of people who have experience and can help you. Citizens Information Centres have a lot of detail and support about the process or look online www.citizensinformation.ie. The Housing Agency also has an easy guide to the application form https://www.housingagency.ie/housing-information/applying-social-housing-support. Irish Wheelchair Association members should contact their local branch and ask for advice and support to make the application process easier. If you are a member of another disability organisation, contact them for support. Speak to as many people as you can along your journey for advice and information including your local TDs and councillors.

4) Cover all your needs: If you need personal assistance, a PA service, to live independently you need to make contact with your local HSE Disability Manager and begin that application process alongside your housing application process.

5) Return the application form today! It is remarkable how many people nearly get their form completed but then delay or forget to post it away and leave all that effort sitting in a drawer. Support your family or friend to get the job finished when they have lost momentum and are discouraged by all the work.

Recently I heard Yvonne, a member of Irish Wheelchair Association saying, “I actually never thought that it would be possible for me to live independently because I didn’t have the confidence and courage in myself… Look once you get into your home you get to actually have fun. And it’s only then that you actually relax and just realise... you kinda wonder why you waited so long to do something like this. So yeah definitely go for it.”

Just keep going and finish the job together. You will be glad you did.

For information about Irish Wheelchair Association’s 'Think Ahead, Think Housing' campaign log onto www.iwa.ie/thinkhousing.

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Wine, art and lots of catching up at popular fundraiser

By Michelle Crean Spirits were high and the atmosphere electric at this year’s Wine & Art Night which had a huge attendance on Wednesday night. Over 50 exhibitors gathered in […]

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By Michelle Crean

Spirits were high and the atmosphere electric at this year’s Wine & Art Night which had a huge attendance on Wednesday night.

Over 50 exhibitors gathered in the Great Southern Killarney as the Killarney Rotary Club’s fundraising event – which is one of the biggest in the town each year – was back after a COVID break.

During the afternoon the artists and crafters, many who travelled from all over Kerry, Clare, Cork and even Waterford this year, organised their display for the event. Later that evening there were a lot of familiar faces but also some new people who absolutely loved the evening.

There were many wines available to taste as well as cheese and breads at the event which is run in conjunction with Daly’s SuperValu, Killarney and Killarney Brewing Company.

“There was a huge attendance and everybody was in good spirits to be back to normal,” President of Rotary, Rayla Tadjimatova, said.

“Many of the patrons were buying some art as Christmas presents and the members of Rotary were delighted to be kept busy packing these. A portion of all art sales goes to the fundraiser. One local young man, who is only 16, exhibited his beautiful photographs of local scenic areas. There was an auction of donated works of art and a Kerry Jersey. All one hundred percent of the proceeds from this auction goes to the fundraiser.”

Mike Neeson entertained the crowd on arrival and right until the end of the night.

“Mike is a great supporter of our events and we would like to thank him for keeping everybody entertained.”

The Irish Pilgrimage Trust ran the raffle and they had some wonderful hampers and gifts to be won.

Beneficiaries from this year’s event are: Coolick NS, Gaelscoil Faithleann NS, Knockanes NS, Holy Cross Mercy NS, St Francis Special School, Kerry Stars, Killarney Athletic AFC, and Killarney Cougars Basketball Club.

She thanked everybody for attending and everyone for their help organising the event.

Some, she added, had never been before and said they did not know what exactly the night involved but will definitely be back again next time as it was “so enjoyable”.

“We hope the money raised will help the beneficiaries to proceed with projects,” she said.

“We are delighted for Rotary to be able to help these charities, community groups and schools through our fundraising event.”

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Comedy drama ready for the stage

By Michelle Crean Get out your diary and book in these December dates as Dochas Drama Group is ready to take to the stage. What does a hypochondriac, a grumpy […]

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By Michelle Crean

Get out your diary and book in these December dates as Dochas Drama Group is ready to take to the stage.

What does a hypochondriac, a grumpy father and a confused visitor to the dentist, all have in common? You’ll have to come along to the Killarney Avenue Hotel on Monday, December 12, Tuesday 13 and Wednesday 14 at 8pm to find out.

The popular drama group will present their three new comedies featuring the work of playwrights Brian Bowler, Ger Madden and Mary Quirke.Come along for a night filled with fun and laughter. Just the right beginning to the festive season. Doors open at 7.15pm and tickets are available at the door. All tickets; adults, seniors, students and children are €10. Don’t miss a great night out.

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