'My disability is invisible to everyone but me'

Budget committees or fiscal policies should not determine whether goals, aspirations or dreams are realised, writes Hugh O'Farrell Walsh

The Disable Inequality campaign called for a full-time cabinet minister for disability inclusion before the recent general election.

The Disable Inequality campaign called for a full-time cabinet minister for disability inclusion before the recent general election.

 

So let’s start by saying I have cerebral palsy.

Phew, now that’s out of the way. Although at this stage of my life I’m not afraid to let that one slip. Cerebral palsy is a condition that affects 1 in 500 people globally.

It’s used as an umbrella term for a variety of disorders that manifest themselves in different ways, usually caused by some kind of brain damage either before, during, or shortly after birth. My CP is quite mild.

These days it mainly affects my balance and coordination skills. So if you’re so inclined please don't ask me to carry heavy boxes, go roller skating or climb a ladder as I will more than likely topple over into the nearest bush.

People with CP all have that one moment. The one where we realize “I’m different.” This happens to each of us at different points in our lives, but it’s the first step on the journey of acceptance of my disability and deciding how much of a positive part or otherwise it will play in my day to day life.

Having CP isn’t the worst thing in the world.

After all, for me, it’s the only world I know. Overall I feel very lucky and that’s not just because hardly anyone notices or says anything.

Because my CP is so mild, I don’t share many of the same struggles as people with other conditions.

My disability is invisible to everyone but me. Unfortunately this is not the case for everybody. Disabling inequality is one of the biggest issues facing Irish society today.

Yet many feel there is a lack of political leadership, and commitment to make Ireland a truly modern, truly equal Republic in 2016.

The latest figures from the Disability Federation of Ireland show that more than 600,000 people are currently living with a disability in Ireland. Two in three of us know or care for an immediate family member, a friend or a neighbour living with various life affecting conditions. Taking a bus, enrolling in school, finding a job, going to a gig, keeping warm: Almost everything can be more difficult with more barriers if you are living with a disability.

Before the election, the Disable Inequality election campaign called for a full-time cabinet minister for disability inclusion, a fair income for people with disabilities and the reinstatement of €150 million to disability health services cut since 2008. The reality for many people living with a disability is that they must live their lives within the limitation of what an underfunded budget will allow.

It is important to emphasise that life with a disability is different for every individual, no two people will have the same life experiences, needs, aspirations, goals or dreams. Budget committees or fiscal policies should not determine whether goals, aspirations or dreams are realised.

Sadly that is the reality of the world we live in. But it need not be so.

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