’s been rather quiet down here. The past four to five months, I’ve been involved in disability rights campaigns and had a long much-needed Christmas and New Year’s break. I’m now back to passive campaigning in some form or another while having the flu… it’s never boring in MS-land.

With the Irish election campaign in full swing, it’s difficult combining high-powered fatigue issues and other MS symptoms with the amount of advocating I want to do. The first and second are, as most of you know, difficult to tackle, the latter not acted upon enough. I’m still dedicated to writing for my blog, though, and also for the Novartis and Irish MS Society blogs.

There is one thing I would like to highlight. In my belief, disability rights are something we all need to fight for because sooner or later, we will all be confronted with it. Quite often people portray to care about those with chronic illnesses and disabilities, yet they don’t. Either we are “not accountable in steering our country forward,” and therefore, are seen as “a burden on society.”

This has to end

By the time of my MS diagnosis 2.5 years after moving to Ireland, I already knew about the state of Irish health services after ending up with a knee injury, appendicitis, and endometriosis. Clearly, the focus of the Irish government between 2002 and 2010 was solely directed at job creation, providing new housing and playing golf games with bank managers and celebrities.

The health system was an underpaid and undervalued department that was treated with ignorance by those who were in charge. While the medical staff was utterly dedicated and empathic, the government didn’t put enough energy and goodwill into providing decent care for everyone in Ireland.

After an 8-year long recession and a much-needed change of government, nothing much has changed. The health system then and now resembles a tall, vast dead-born child from the day it was created. Putting new life into an archaic department seems impossible to do, yet some progress has been made. Some, but not much.

My voice is therefore but a tiny one. Instead of being part of the problem, being part of the solution by trying to wipe out obstacles is what I’m after. Too often news stories pop up with horrific tales of misconduct in nursing homes, religious decision-making when the life of future mothers (or not) is at stake and other sickening facts (excuse the pun).

I want to ask you, so, what are you doing to make things better?

Are you just sitting back, commenting on what others do wrong?

Do you think it’s fair that people with disabilities should fix the health system?

Do you believe Ireland can do better, can be better and will be better in five years’ time?

Quite often, the easiest way to solve a problem is to stop participating in it. So, please offer a solution, an idea to end inequality and injustice to those with disabilities.

Dignity, recognition and the UNCRPD ratification, that’s all we ask for.


Check out the #DisableInequality website here, and the Disable Inequality Facebook page too. When you tweet, use #disableinequality and @disinequality.

You can even add the Disable Inequality logo to your profile pictures by using a Twibbon on Twitter,

Similarly, you can do the same for your Facebook profile pictures too:

You can read the Disable Inequality Manifesto below:

Disable Inequality

Making Disability a Priority in Election 2016

Does That Seem Fair To You?

If we want to build a better, more equal Ireland for everyone, disability must be a defining issue in Election 2016.

Almost 600,000 people – that’s one in eight of us – are living with a disability. Two in three of us know of an immediate family member, a friend or a neighbour living with a disability.

Disability increases with age; this means that it will be an issue that many of us will live with, either personally or as carers, at some stage in our lives. The last eight years of recession have had a disproportionate and brutal impact on people with disabilities who are now among the poorest and most excluded in the country.

Election 2016 gives us the chance to change this. To change futures. People with disabilities want to make a meaningful contribution to the development and renewal of our country. But we need everyone’s support to achieve our potential. In Election 2016, we are asking you to vote for candidates who are committed to taking positive action on disability issues.

One vote at a time, we will disable inequality.

Disability is Everyone’s Issue

Almost 600,000 people are living with a disability in Ireland.

2 in every 3 of us know a family member, a friend or a neighbour living with a disability.

At least 1 in 10 adults of working age have a disability (15-64 years).

1 in 3 adults over 65 has a disability.

There are nearly 190,000 family carers in Ireland; two thirds are women caring for someone with a disabling condition.

Make Disability a Priority in the New Programme for Government

The next Government can demonstrate its ambition and commitment to people with disabilities by ensuring that these 3 key priorities are in the new Programme for Government.

Cabinet Leadership

Establish a Cabinet Minister for Disability Inclusion to drive and co-ordinate a whole of government approach, including the ratification of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD) no later than the end of 2016.

Fair Income and Work Opportunities

Increase Disability Allowance, starting with €20 in Budget 2017.

Introduce a Disability tax credit, similar to the Blind Persons tax credit.

Make all employment activation programmes eligible to people with disabilities.

Independence, Access, Choice and Community

Increase the Disability Budget by €50m each year from 2016 with further investment in community services and supports programmes for people with disabilities.

Increase the budget for Personal Assistant Services by a minimum of €7m each year for the next three years.

Guarantee that medical cards are awarded and retained on need, not on employment status.

Ensure all education programmes provide supports for the full inclusion of people with disabilities.

Ensure all public transport, facilities and structures are accessible for people with disabilities.

Barriers, Difficulties and Biases

People living with a disability experience barriers, difficulties, biases and inequalities everyday.Our most recent research tells us that almost half of people with disabilities, or their family members, have incurred extra costs due to illness or disability.[1]

The cost of disability is estimated to be an additional €207 per week.[2] These extra costs are for necessities like medications, transport, housing adaptation, extra heating costs or therapy supports. If you are living with a disability, you are likely to be among the poorest and most deprived in our country.

Our research also tells us that 75% of Irish people agree that the Government should make medical cards available to people based on need, not income.[3]

Yet, people with disabilities and their families are constantly anxious about whether they will have a medical card or not. Many are fearful to earn an independent income or return to work in case the medical card and other essential supports are taken away.

Disabled people and their families are twice as likely to experience unemployment.

If you are living with a disability and you want to work you need to have access and supports to participate in the same Government training and job activation programmes as everyone else.

1 in 4 people with a disability can’t use public transport because it’s not accessible.[4]

If you use a wheelchair you have to give 24 hours’ notice to travel by train. Buses are inaccessible to many and there are fewer accessible taxis than before the recession.

A substantial €136m has been cut from essential disability services since 2008.

Vital supports to everyday living such as Personal Assistance Services, Mobility Allowance and the Motorised Transport Grant have also been cut, making everyday life extremely restrictive for many.

Children are being denied entrance to local schools due to their disabilities.

A quarter of children in Ireland have some form of special educational need[5]. Yet many are denied entrance to their local school because of the lack of supports, segregating them from their brothers, sisters and play-mates.

Funding for the Housing Adaptation Grant Scheme has seen cuts of 56% since 2010.[6]

These cuts, as well as lengthy waiting lists for social housing, have left people living in intolerable conditions.


Three things you can do to support the campaign

Tell Your Story –

Go to

Disable Inequality is collecting stories of unfairness – your stories – from across the country.

We will use this book of evidence to show political leaders and your candidates that it is time to end discrimination against people living with disability.

By adding your voice, you can be part of a movement to create a more equal Ireland.

Contact your Candidates

If you care about the rights of people living with disability make sure your public representatives care too.

Tell them that disability matters – at your doorstep, at public meetings, by letter or email.

Go to to send your message to your candidates.

Vote to End Discrimination

You can vote to end discrimination against people living with a disability.

Help us Disable Inequality by supporting candidates who are strongly committed to taking positive action on disability issues.

[1] National Poll carried out for the Disability Federation of Ireland by Ireach Insights (October 2015)

[2] Cullinan, Lyons & Nolan (2014). The Economics of Disability.

[3] Ireach insights (October 2015)

[4] Watson & Nolan (2011) A social portrait of people with disabilities in Ireland. ESRI

[5] Banks, J. & McCoy, S. (2011) ‘A Study on the Prevalence of Special Educational Needs’. NCSE

[6] DoEHLG Annual Housing Statistics 2010-2014

Source: DFI,

More info:

Further reading

My UNCRPD Posts for the MS Society

  1. Access to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  2. United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities
  3. The General Election- One MSer’s Perspective
  4. Budget 2016 

Own blog

  1. UNCRPD – Getting Ready to Ratify (1)
  2. UNCRPD – Getting Ready to Ratify (2)
  3. UNCRPD – The Right on Participation in Political and Public Life
  4. Disability rights in Ireland
  5. Disability rights in Ireland, 3 years later
  6. The sorry state of neurology in Ireland
  7. The sorry state of neurology in Ireland, one year on
  8. Disable Inequality campaign
  9. Irish public transport: access all areas?
  10. Disability is never cured with one pill alone
  11. UNCRPD in Ireland – begging for change


© Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2016. Unauthorized use and duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner are strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

13 Comments on “Disable Inequality

  1. Pingback: Positive MS News: April 2016

  2. Pingback: UNCRPD, Ireland’s ten-year moral outrage | Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me

  3. Pingback: UNCRPD – The Right on Participation in Political and Public Life | Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me

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