2009-02-17: Mr. Joe Duffy, presenter of the popular phone-in RTÉ Radio 1 Programme: ‘Liveline‘ (13.45-15.00 hrs. local time in Ireland), covered an item of major importance today … the complete lack, in our country, of ‘accessible’ emergency services for people with a hearing impairment (2001 WHO ICF).
To place this issue in a necessary wider context … back in December 2006, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. After various procedural ‘jigs and reels’, the Convention became an International Legal Instrument on 3rd May 2008. This is now International Law !
It is worth quoting from some of the UN Convention’s Text …
Article 9 – Accessibility
1. To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas. These measures, which shall include the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility, shall apply to, inter alia:
(a) Buildings, roads, transportation and other indoor and outdoor facilities, including schools, housing, medical facilities and workplaces ;
(b) Information, communications and other services, including electronic services and emergency services.
Article 11 – Situations of Risk & Humanitarian Emergencies
States Parties shall take, in accordance with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters.
[Note: Article 11 covers risk situations such as … fires in buildings.]
Progress with regard to the continuing Ratification of this United Nations Convention can be viewed here.
Although Ireland signed the Convention on 30th March 2007, amidst much publicity, this country has still not ratified it. Why is that ? Other European Union Member States have ratified it without any problem.
Yet again, why haven’t the National Disability Authority … and particularly Ms. Angela Kerins, NDA & Equality Authority Chairperson – ‘valiant protector, against all odds and foes, of disability & equal rights’ … screamed and protested loudly about Ireland’s disgraceful tardy ratification of the UN Disability Convention ? Did we even hear a whimper from them ? Definitely not.
This is an issue where an essential leadership role must be taken up – enthusiastically – by our politicians and senior civil servants. The correct signals must be given to society as a whole.
What Mr. Joe Duffy does not understand, unfortunately, is that Irish Politicians and Senior Civil Servants would all rather commit ritual suicide on Merrion Street (outside the Dáil and Government Buildings) than give people with disabilities their rights.
There is no longer any acceptable reason whatsoever … why ‘accessible’ emergency services cannot be introduced immediately in this country … or throughout the rest of Europe.