The Munster Express, Tuesday, 17 August 2021yar

Text of article: Disability activist refused assistance due to Covid-19 by Kieran Foley

A Waterford disability activist says he has been refused assistance in Waterford stores on multiple occasions- with Covid-19 cited as a reason.

Karl Cretzan (25) from Ballygunner, who has cerebral palsy and scoliosis and is confined to a wheelchair, has on numerous occasions requested assistance to access his wallet and mobile phone in addition to assistance with other issues.

While some stores have been accommodating, Karl is increasingly being told that staff are unable to assist him due to Covid-19 guidelines.

Last week, Karl expressed his disappointment to The Munster Express at having yet again been refused assistance in a Waterford store. He fears that many others in Waterford who require assistance are also being ignored.

“This is not acceptable,” he says. “How can I, or other people that need assistance, get by if this the line we are going down in this country? How can we live independently if this is the attitude?”

Karl describes the explanations he has received as “unacceptable” and “discriminatory” and he believes certain protocols should be introduced in order to ensure all premises are disabled-friendly while also meeting Covid-19 guidelines.

“Unfortunately, this virus isn’t going away anytime soon,” he says. “It’s 2021 and we are a year and five months into the Covid-19 pandemic. People and businesses need to be aware and have training if necessary to deal with customers who need extra assistance.” meanwhile, Karl is continuing his efforts to raise awareness about wheelchair access at Waterford banks. He has been engaged in this campaign since 2014.

“One of the banks says that their premises is accessible, but it clearly isn’t,” says Karl. “I have huge issues in relation to accessibility that they haven’t done anything about to date.” He adds: “Some bank branches around the country are completely closing down so I am trying to find the right bank that is properly accessible and one that will give the proper assistance that I, or anyone that needs assistance, requires.”

Karl has campaigned on many disability issues such as the need for improved wheelchair access on public transport nationwide, including in Waterford. He is awaiting updates on this issue. 

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