The irony of us all having to pull together by staying apart isn't lost on Irish people. We're a country who thrive on physical, social and emotional contact. But government instruction and medical advice requests us all to keep a little distance, for a while at least. These measures aren't ultimately aimed at safeguarding the well-being of the healthy. They're aimed at protecting the most vulnerable in Irish society.
According to the 2016 census, there were 643,141 people in Ireland living with a disability. That is 1 person in 7. Of this figure, 296,783 people registered as having a difficulty connected with pain, breathing or chronic illness. Many of these people (as well as large numbers of those with other disabilities) are experiencing high levels of vulnerability in the last few days.
These are the significant minority who are not taking solace in the reassurances echoed around Ireland that 'it's only the elderly and the sick who are really at risk'.
There is no doubt that those in positions of influence are taking difficult steps and making decisive decisions to protect those who are most vulnerable. These extraordinary times are calling for extraordinary measures. For those teams whose focus is on the containment of this virus, sometimes the practical and administrative aspects can be overlooked. Even with the greatest of intentions, communicative, policy, procedural and attitudinal barriers for people with disabilities can arise.
By engaging representatives from Disabled People Organisations (DPO's) such as the Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) and Independent Living Movement Ireland (ILMI) the government can ensure the effective and targeted conveyance of vital information to those who are most vulnerable. When forming policy decisions in this ever-evolving situation, those with lived experience of disability can bring invaluable insights to working panels and advisory groups.
With well over 643,000 people in Ireland living with a disability, it is hoped their input and insight is valued.
Never has the mantra 'Nothing about us, without us' been so relevant.