WLR Interviewyar


Deise Today, WLR 06/07/2021

Damien Tiernan (DT), Seán Rohan (SR)

DT: Seán Rohan is here with me, office manager at Waterford Disability Network. Hiya Sean.

SR: Hi Damien, how are you this morning?

DT: I’m good, thank you Seán. The recent Dublin Bay election debate on telly, what did they not mention?

SR: Absolutely anything regarding disability issues, whether it was access around the constituency or national issues relating to disability or the fact that the payment people are getting at the moment which is meant to be a subsistence payment is almost twice what disability, em, people with disability are getting, so in other words they’re meant to live on twice…on half what another person is meant to take as their subsistence payment.

DT: Why do you think that that issue and those issues that we’re discussing this morning, we wanted to have you on, why are they not being discussed at that national level as much as you want?

SR: I think one issue, now I know that there are organisations like the Disability Federation of Ireland, but I think one issue is that the disability sector is very fragmented and so it doesn’t come together as one voice and all you have to do is look at the difference between the strength of the farmers and the weakness of the fishermen to see what a strong voice can do for your industry or your sector.

DT: In terms of outdoor dining, a lot of issues, I’m talking about the co-vid passports and related matters at the minute, about getting into restaurants, how has the recent reopening of certain restaurants reopening of certain restaurants and bars outdoor dining, how has it affected those that you represent in terms of the Disability Network?

SR: Well, first of all, it’s great to see life back in the city, our office on New Street is just up from the Apple Market so we’ve witnessed the change over the last few weeks very much, the vast majority of those in business with restaurants and pubs have taken care, and with the seating and table arrangements to not be too impassable but there are problems, there are problems lower down the Apple Market, there are problems in O’Connell Street and we try to work with the different businesses to try and alleviate such problems by making things passable and just because a footpath or a part of a roadway is fine for somebody to walk by doesn’t mean a wheelchair or a woman with a mobility scooter or indeed a parent with a pram can get by, they don’t have the same access as a pedestrian and…

DT: This comes up quite regularly and people still don’t get it, we were talking, for example, this morning about wheelie bins and people leaving wheelie bins out on footpaths.

SR: That’s a huge issue, in Waterford, on Barrack Street in particular it’s a massive issue and it’s not an inconvenience because it’s all about a state of mind, you put out a wheelie bin, you’re thinking it’s no big deal somebody can just walk around it or cycle around it, whatever it happens to be but again, if you’re in a mobility scooter, a wheelchair or a parent with a pram or a buggy it’s not that simple and it could be life threatening in fact, because the only way around, there might be a car parked on the kerb, a wheelie bin blocking half the footpath so the only way past might be to actually go out on the road so it’s…

DT: And the very nature of wheelie bins or other bins is that they’re going to be heavy so you’re not going to be able to move it and then if you push the wheelie bin or if you do manage, for example, to be able to push the wheelie bin out onto the road and go past you’re possibly creating an inconvenience on the road as well.

SR: Well, you’re possibly making yourself liable for insurance purposes

DT: Correct, so it’s a ridiculous state of affairs

SR: It certainly is…and in…

DT: What’s the solution? Is there a solution, I wonder?

SR: I think the only possible solution would be that in areas, now it doesn’t matter where people’s rubbish is collected within their own property if their gateway is off the road so to speak, but for terraced houses and houses where the front door is on the main street, so to speak, I think the only possible solution, and it’s not perfect, would be that such areas, their rubbish would be collected at the very earliest or very latest times to avoid 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. so to speak.

DT: Yeah, and that the wheelie bin gets taken in as quickly as possible

SR: Exactly, and again fines may need to be brought in because that’s often the only way to change people’s attitude

DT: So in terms of fine, what would you be recommending?

SR: On that issue I wouldn’t like to say, but what I would say in regards to fines is we’re extremely happy to see that the Gardai are working so hard on tackling both parking on kerbs and, also, parking in designated parking spaces, you just have to look at the Garda Info Twitter page to see that. We’re often in contact with the Garda Síochána.

DT: Because you get people who will park in a disables parking bay, a disabled parking space and they’ll sit in the car and they’ll think “oh sure it’s grand, once I’m sitting in the car, I’ll move if somebody comes up to me”, but somebody may drive up  to the area and drive past because they’ll see somebody there, but we’ve had instances of people being fined for parking in disabled bays without the proper badges and they’re still sitting in the cars.

SR: And what needs to be done is more publicity of these fines taking place to dissuade people from doing so in the future, it is €150 and I said An Garda Síochána are increasingly doing so. What’s also a huge problem when the weather got so well in the past couple of weeks is parking on footpaths or right beside footpaths making them impassable and the most famous area in Waterford is, also possibly the most beautiful area in the country, which is to walk from the park down to the strand in Dunmore East, where if you are a wheelchair user or even if you’re a parent with a pram, it’s often not possible and even if it’s possible you don’t know that until you get there so you can’t even take the risk, and so, that has to be changed, there’s other places to park not too far away that if you’re able to walk, it’s well worth parking a bit away because if your parking is taking over some of that small enough footpath as it is, then you’re making it completely impossible for parents with prams, wheelchair users and those with mobility scooters.

DT: How important is it that there is some progress made regarding indoor dining for people with disabilities?

SR: Well, it’s important for everybody, and the indoor dining thing isn’t too much of a factor, in the sense that, because the distance between seats in restaurants is going to be so much greater than normal for the foreseeable future, there’ll actually be better access within restaurants, but when you speak about the outdoor dining that’s happening at the moment, as I said, the seating and tables are usually done fairly well, there are problems and we welcome people highlighting them to us, either on our Facebook page or tag us on our Twitter page and we bring them to the relevant authority and try to alleviate the problem, but what is a huge problem, far more so than actual tables and chairs, is the street hoardings, the sandwich boards advertising prices of drinks or menus, and there’s two reasons that’s a huge problem. 1: They’re not given the care of a table and chair, they’re just put in the middle of a footpath or outside of the door of a premises taking up half the footpath so that’s obviously bad for the people we’ve spoken about wheelchair users, mobility scooter users, etc. but for those who are visually impaired the problem isn’t so much the street hoarding, it’s the fact that it’s moved everyday or every couple of hours by people and so, if you are visually impaired you need a set map as to where to go around and so if you know that there’s a sign outside a certain pub to avoid that’s fine, but if you pass it on Monday and the sign is at the doorway, and the sign on Tuesday it’s across at the other side of the footpath then that’s a huge problem, and so, while there are, as I said, problems with some of the outdoor seating it’s relatively small and, I’m not, we’re not one of those organisations who like to complain about everything, it’s not a huge problem but the sandwich boards on the streets is. It effects far more people, as I said, visually impaired people as well as those with physical access issues and…

DT: So those that are running restaurants and bars that are doing that again to be conscious of that, a state of mind, to make sure that they know what they’re doing and putting it in the same place everyday.

SR: Putting it in the best place possible, then once you’ve decided upon that, the same place everyday, like for example, there’s one outside the Book Centre which is always in the same place and that’s not a problem, but there’s many of them around restaurants and pubs which change practically by the hour.

DT: Seán Rohan, anybody who wants to contact you, you’re office manager with Waterford Disability Network and they can contact you through Facebook, also through Google and also through any of the phone numbers.

SR: Exactly, and Twitter and we also have Instagram as well.

DT: Oh my goodness! Well done! You’ll be on Tik Tok next huh?

SR: Well, we’ll have, uh, actually we’re launching a website in a few weeks time and we’ve a few more ventures to announce, which hopefully we can here as well.

DT: Absolutely, Seán Rohan, thanks very much.

SR: Thank you Damien.

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