Monday was International Wheelchair Day. It’s a day where the focus is on celebrating the positive impact a wheelchair has on its users. The level of independence and freedom it can give to those who use and need them. What I would like to focus on today is a day in the life of a wheelchair user.
Oisin Putt was born with Spina Bifida and has been using a wheelchair full time since the age of 5. He is 18 years old and currently preparing to sit his leaving cert during one of the most difficult years thanks to COVID-19.
As the founder of Awareness Overload (an online community working towards a more inclusive Ireland), Oisin is a disability activist where he has written about the challenges and obstacles still in place for those less able.
From an early age, he has had a love of sports, especially wheelchair basketball, and dabbles in sailing. As a point guard for the Ballybrack bulls, Oisin is an advocate for the independence you can get from a wheelchair and the sports surrounding it.
Quite recently, Oisin has written about a typical day in his life that has shone a light on the issues wheelchair users still face here in Ireland.
Sadly in Ireland, we hear that many public transport services pride themselves on their inclusive travel options. But this isn’t enough. 13.8% of Ireland’s population have a disability and 40,000 of those are wheelchair users. Here’s an account of just 1 day in Oisin’s life on dealing with public transport.
”Public transport has always been a big headache for me whenever I try to leave the house. Nowadays due to the pandemic, I hardly ever leave my estate, never mind take the bus. But before COVID, I would use the bus to travel to school or go into town and be with friends. This meant I have to plan my route hours in advance, no matter how short the trip would be.”
”Did you know that there are 90 ”able-bodied” seats on a bus but only one wheelchair spot?
Out of the 40,000 wheelchair users in the country how many of us do you think use the bus to get to work, school etc?”
A wheelchair user trying to get from point A to point B has 3 options:
- The Bus
- The Train/DART/Luas
- A Taxi
You get to the bus stop but wait the ramp is broken or there is another wheelchair user in the disabled space on the bus. What now?
”It’s time to try your second option. But wait… you can’t get on because the law states that you must ring Irish Rail 4 hours in advance in order to receive assistance for accessibility onto the train/DART/Luas.
Even if you could get there, how are you supposed to get to the correct platform when the lift is broken?”
”Last option and it’s time to check the taxi app, but guess what? Your MyTaxi app is saying there are no wheelchair-accessible taxis in your area and is no way any driver with a standard car is going to go through the hassle of folding up your wheelchair and putting it in their boot.”
All of this has happened to Oisin in one day. Imagine how frustrating this can be and how many times this has and can happen to wheelchair users in the country.
Thankfully, there are small and simple things we can all do to help make Oisin’s life and the lives of the 39,999 other wheelchair users easier.
How We Can Help:
Don’t stand in the wheelchair spot on the bus:
The wheelchair spot on the bus should always be left clear. It makes navigating to the spot so much easier and saves wheelchair users from having to ask multiple times if they can please move.
Don’t part the disabled parking spots:
It’s really that simple
Clean Up After your dogs:
This really shouldn’t need mentioning but if you don’t clean up after your dog this can extremely problematic for wheelchair users as it sticks to the wheels and can transfer to hands.
Learn more about disability rights in Ireland and how you can do your part in making this country more accessible for all of its citizens.
Making Life Easier:
Did you know that we reached out to Oisin to try out our very own Uccello Kettle to see if it would help make life easier for him at home. Here’s what he thought: