The reception was attended by the Sligo Service Co-ordinator Helen Rochford Brennan, members of the Wheelchair Association and Councillors Michael Fleming and Gerry Murray. In his address the Cathaoirleach commends the association for their development from a modest group forty years ago to a 20,000 strong organization who have ‘become one of the most articulate and convincing advocates for change in our community.’
Councillor Kilgannon points to full inclusion for people with disabilities in the community as a principal objective of the Irish Wheelchair Association. It is in this context, the Cathaoirleach states, ‘that local authorities have to take a leading role, not only in ensuring its own buildings are fully accessible, but to ensure that the requirements of disability legislation are being met by society as a whole.’
Sligo Local Authorities have identified a programme of works to ensure their buildings are in line with these requirements and this commitment is reflected in the ‘Excellence Through Accessibility’ award received by the Teach Laighne offices in Tubbercurry. Councillor Kilgannon also speaks about access to education for people with disabilities. A report published by the Economic and Social Research Institute for the National Disability Authority found that ‘people with disabilities aged between 25 to 34 were four times less likely to have a qualification beyond primary level, and were half as likely to reach third level as their peers.’ This statistic, says the Cathaoirleach ‘should be a wake up call for people who might be complacent about the disability agenda’ and ‘as local authorities we have to be focused and committed in delivering on our disability agenda.’The Cathaoirleach concludes by commending the Sligo branch for their continuous efforts to address issues of inclusion and integration for people with disabilities.
In her address to the chamber, Helen Rochford-Brennan thanked the Cathaoirleach for this reception and how works carried out by Sligo Local Authorities were welcomed and appreciated by the Irish Wheelchair Association. Projects such as a hoist installed at Mullaghmore Pier has opened up a whole range of activities which were previously unavailable to people with disabilities The Sligo branch of the Irish Wheelchair Association are based in the Abbeyville Centre in Sligo City and cater for 75 to 100 people a week. There are also outreach centres in Enniscrone and Ballymote with plans to expand both these services. Ms Rochford –Brennan concludes that although great strides have been made in Sligo in implementing requirements of disability legislation, there is more work to be done and she looks forward to continued partnership with Sligo Local Authorities.