Martin Kelly, a member of People with Disabilities, Kildare, who was a participant on the steering group and representing the interests of people with a disability, reports on a number of disability related events that took place as part of the week’s celebration of social inclusion in County Kildare.
The inaugural Social Inclusion Week in County Kildare took place from September 25th to Friday 29th. It covered all areas of the county stretching from Celbridge to Athy and hosted a variety of individual community events over the week, including events such as, strengthening families to a photographic
exposition on the life experiences of refugees in Kildare. The Friday afternoon witnessed a thrilling demonstration of Blind Football as one of the week’s concluding events.
The ultimate aim for Social Inclusion Week was to bring together groups that would eventually form a social inclusion network for the county, under the auspices of the Public Participation Network (PPN) with the support of the Local Community Partnership (CKLP). Initially, mooted as a one-day event to highlight social inclusion in Kildare but in essence, needing a week to roll out a miscellany of activities that community groups are delivering across the county on a daily basis.
On the Tuesday, a representative group of people with disabilities met up at Kildare town Heritage Centre to embark on a disability access audit of the Town.
Our personal journey covered most of the town’s major thoroughfares. Along with the county’s Access Officer (AO) we identified eighteen “black spots” that will need to be addressed urgently. These ranged from poorly dished crossings to several undulating footpaths and badly parked vehicles. Apart from noting the myriad of environmental shortcomings, The AO also took photographic evidence to support our findings and his comprehensive report for the town Engineer.
On the Wednesday, it was an open day at the IWA Jon Sullivan Centre in Clane, where Wheelchair users from across South Kildare regularly attend and spend a large part of their day. While there, they can engage with a wide range of activities, from creative Arts to learning all about modern technology. Coincidentally, one of the on-site PCs is equipped with a JAWS speech package to cater for blind/VI participants. Given that the week’s events were concluding on the Friday, a grand finale was arranged at Áras Chill Dara, in Devoy Park, Naas. The new location for the Local Authority HQ, in Kildare. The afternoon kicked off with a demonstration of blind football, pre-planned by the local Sports Inclusion Disability Officer (SIDO) in conjunction with the FAI. A team of local Garda took on a civilian team from the Local Authority Staff. They all embraced this challenge with gusto and with blindfolds firmly affixed, attempted to experience this exacting sport that comes under the umbrella of Vision Sports Ireland (VSI).
Needless to say, it was a thoroughly entertaining event but not surprisingly, there were more penalty points than goals clocked up during the game. At times, the FAI referee allowed the players to lift their blindfolds to reorientate themselves on the play area. When the final whistle blew, the players were all gathered together to express their views on how they found the whole experience. The importance of hearing was of course, paramount. Then we adjourned to the comfort of the Aras Chamber for the rest of the afternoon’s proceedings
This opened with a short play by the Run of the Mill theatre group from the John of God’s centre in Celbridge, depicting a series of short job interviews for a selection of positions but as you can imagine, looking for a job and having a disability didn’t result in a very positive outcome.
However, it was extremely well presented in a very imaginative and entertaining fashion. We were then treated to a number of popular pieces by the Local Authority’s four-part choir, which was well received by the packed chamber. A number of keynote speakers then appraised the week, these included the Manager of the Community Partnership along with Kildare’s Mayor. Finally, we were treated to a fine rendition of more popular songs by the KARE Group comprising a large group of young people with a learning disability. It was truly a captivating experience. It was clear to all that Social Inclusion Week was indeed an important vehicle in highlighting the good work that so many groups are engaged in around the county.
Over 40 separate events took place across the five municipal districts, involving hundreds of volunteers and staff from the numerous voluntary organisations that provide services to individuals and families
who experience social exclusion in County Kildare. This week has been a good start and hopefully there will be many more similar events in Kildare to eliminate exclusion for everyone in our County.