There is no guidance available for disabled parents; we fall through all the cracks. It’s as though disabled people are supposed to live alone their whole lives and not have children.
Try getting through an airport with wheelchair assistance – there are no allowances for having children with you. One wheelchair assistant actually said [of my then 18 month old daughter], “she can walk next to you but don’t blame me if the wheels go over her feet.” Bear in mind this was after I had to repeatedly ask her to slow down because The Kids were running to try and keep up and this obnoxious woman was completely ignoring them.
I found out the hard way that the education system in the UK has no guidance for accommodating disabled parents. “But the Equality Act covers you,” I hear you say. It should but on a practical level it does not. This was not a case of the individual school being difficult- I contacted the Head of Children’s Services under whose remit schools fall and I was still left battling for access. I even sent a request for information to the Department for Education which received a standard email response which had words but essentially said nothing.
Thankfully that battle is firmly in the past; we have happily home educated since 2015.
I had resigned myself to always being on the outside fighting to get in- sometimes I would give up before I even started to avoid the stress and disappointment not just for myself but for The Kids. It’s an awful feeling to be looking forward to an event only to be let down because I can’t be accommodated or access was prohibitively difficult.
Last weekend I had a wonderfully positive experience at Tramore Races with the manager (Sue) being incredibly accommodating not just for my own physical disability but my son’s food allergies. We had a wonderful day (though I did not pick a single winner!) and enjoyed the food at the Graun Hill Suite; we were pleasantly surprised at how affordable the food/entry combination proved to be and at the quality of the food. On the question on Carer concessions Sue was amazingly honest and open that the question had not been asked previously and was happy to consider what my previous experience had been. This is a shining example of someone willing to truly accommodate people with disabilities- taking the time to understand what we need and willing to compromise.
In contrast to the flexibility of Tramore Races I recently contacted Leahy’s Farm and their response to my query about Carer concessions was “…at present we don’t have any concessions for carers. The charges to the farm are €9 per person and under 2’s are free.”
People with disabilities already face financial challenges with having to purchase special equipment, pay for care support, pay to adapt housing, and many of us are unable to work. I officially retired from the NHS in 2011 [having been unable to return to work for the previous two years] and NHS Pensions have grudgingly provided a £50pcm pension. They maintain that I might get better. My doctors disagree but NHS Pensions have maintained their position so I have virtually no income.
Many disabled people face similar challenges so a simple Carer concession makes a significant difference in whether we can afford to bring our families somewhere.
I confess that I had assumed the same accommodations would be available in Ireland as in the UK but I have learned very quickly that is most definitely not the case. There has been progress but even something as simple as providing concessions for Carers is proving elusive in Ireland. At the very least I hope asking the question highlights the issue.