People with disabilities and State services

 

Sir, – I am writing as an ally to other disabled people in Ireland currently having to deal with the technology gap that Covid-19 has exposed when accessing our Government services. I have faced the situation where I have had to explain to the tax office that I, as a disabled woman, cannot complete their form by hand as I cannot hold a pen. In person, this was embarrassing, but usually the person on the other side of the desk would provide support and witness me signing it. Covid-19 has removed these possibilities.

I know of one young woman who has repeatedly requested communication support (which is a legal right under the disability anti-discrimination law) only to then receive a letter stating she will need to be able to sign the document, and that under a lockdown that isn’t possible. With working from home being written into law, please can there be a refocusing on communication support? Assistive technology is widely available, from banks to airlines. Why are we allowing Intreo (employment) centres, tax offices and other Government bodies to effectively prevent disabled people from accessing services due to their physical or cognitive need for communication support?

I will not magically be able to suddenly hold a pen and start filling in forms. So let’s look for an inclusive approach. – Yours, etc,

CARRIE WILLIAMS,

Kerry.