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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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Two Mile School “Says Yes to Japanese”

The pupils and staff of Two Mile Community National School were delighted to welcome Mr Norio Maruyama,  the Japanese Ambassador to Ireland on Tuesday. The Ambassador was at the school […]

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The pupils and staff of Two Mile Community National School were delighted to welcome Mr Norio Maruyama,  the Japanese Ambassador to Ireland on Tuesday.

The Ambassador was at the school to promote the teaching of the Japanese language and culture through the ‘Say Yes to Languages’ programme.

“The pupils in Two Mile were very interested to listen to stories about Japan and to learn about the links between our two countries,” said school principal Catherine Barry.
“As a multi-denominational school, we are very open to different languages and cultures and we look forward to working with the Japanese embassy from next September.”
Two Mile Community National School is the only multi-denominational school in the Killarney school district.

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 Photographer Anastasiia goes Out and About for Killarney Advertiser.

The Killarney Advertiser is pleased to announce that Anastasiia Garbera has joined the team. Anastasiia is a photographer from Ukraine. She has been living in Killarney for nearly two years […]

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The Killarney Advertiser is pleased to announce that Anastasiia Garbera has joined the team.

Anastasiia is a photographer from Ukraine. She has been living in Killarney for nearly two years and is trying to establish a freelance photography business.
“I love my job. I’ve been shooting for 11 years. I adore photography and connect my life with it. The best thing for me is to show girls and families, brides how beautiful they are. I think it’s my main mission.No need to be a model. We are all beautiful and special. You just need to build more self-confidence. And be sure, I will help you with it.”
Keep an eye out for Anastasiia as she goes Out and About for The Killarney Advertiser.
If you are organising an event and need a photographer email info@killarneyadvertiser.ie for more details.

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