At the recent plenary meeting of Kilkenny County Council, councillors adopted a Disability Inclusion Strategy that will guide policy over the next three years. This is the first strategy to be adopted by Kilkenny County Council since the expiration of the last one in 2014 and covers activities across the organisation to support access by disabled people to a range of activities provided and supported by Kilkenny County Council.
Proposing the policy document, Cllr Maria Dollard highlighted the appreciation of the Kilkenny Access Group who were afforded an opportunity to consider the strategy before it was presented for approval to members. Cllr Dollard is a family carer and long-time campaigner for disability rights particularly in the area of autism. She was appointed to the National Disability Inclusion Strategy Implementation Group and as a result became aware of the gaps in the policy at local level. Working with the Kilkenny Access Group to advocate for its development was very important as this was a priority for that group as well.
“I welcome the strategy. I approached Kilkenny County Council in April 2022 to investigate why we didn’t have a strategy and how we could work together to develop one. We now have a shared document to work from and expect it to be monitored for outcomes on a regular basis, with Kilkenny Access Group, in order to evaluate if it is achieving its purpose. It is not acceptable that we have had no strategy for 10 years and opportunities have been lost as we did not have an access officer or strategy to refer to when planning vital infrastructure. We now have a policy document and working with Kilkenny County Council and Kilkenny Access Group we can work for a more inclusive Kilkenny, dismantling barriers to inclusion for people with physical, sensory, learning disabilities and autism.”
The policy was also supported by Cllr John Coonan, who welcomed the policy and encouraged Kilkenny County Council to seek guidance and consultation from Kilkenny Access Group who are the experts in this field. “We need to listen to these people who have so much to offer in terms of expertise and knowledge”
Members of Kilkenny Access Group were in the Council Chamber to bear witness to the adoption of the policy. Commenting afterwards, Chairperson Fiona O’Neill said “
“As Chairperson of the Kilkenny Access Group, I commend Kilkenny County Council for adopting the Disability Inclusion Strategy 2023-26. This collaborative effort, in conjunction with our group, underscores a notable commitment to inclusivity. The engagement of the Kilkenny Access Group in the strategy’s development ensures a comprehensive approach to addressing the diverse needs of individuals with disabilities. The appointment of an Access Officer and a cross-departmental committee highlights the council’s dedication to driving positive change. Regular monitoring, in partnership with our group, will be essential for evaluating the strategy’s efficacy. We eagerly anticipate working with the council to dismantle barriers and prioritize the inclusion of individuals with various disabilities, fostering a more accessible and equitable Kilkenny”.
This policy will now be driven by this Access Officer and a cross departmental committee in Kilkenny County Council who will liaise with the Kilkenny Access Group and drive forward positive change for people with disabilities in Kilkenny.