The Munster Express, Tuesday, 4 October 2022

WDN walkability audit

A Walkability Audit was carried out along Slievekeale Road and Barrack Street on Thursday, September 29th, by Waterford Disability Network. Organised by Seán Rohan and Maolíosa Ní Chléirigh the purpose was to see what obstacles along the route were experienced by a group of people with mixed abilities. Afterwards the information and insight gained was used to fill in a form from the National Transport Authority which will be uploaded to their website.

Walkability Munster express image

Seán Rohan said: “First I would like to credit Maolíosa with having the idea to carry out this audit and I was very happy to facilitate it taking place as it was such an educational experience. A lot was learned and we were especially glad to have been joined by three members of Waterford Council, namely Cllr Joanne Bailey, Cllr Donal Barry and Cllr Cristiona Kiely as well as Jemma Jacob the Schools Road Safety Officer for the Council and Susan Gallagher of SETU.

Dungarvan Leader, Friday, April 29, 2022

Waterford Disability Network hosts long-awaited information and networking event by Jo Bell

Newspaper clipping from the cover of the Dungarvan Leader
Clipping of article on Waterford Disability Network hosting information and networking event

Text of article:

On Saturday 23rd April, Waterford Disability Network’s ‘Dungarvan Disability Awareness Event’ took place in 360 Cookhouse. The information and networking event featured seven speakers, who discussed a range of issues which affect people with a disability, after which there was an opportunity for attendees to network with others who have an interest in disability issues, over a complimentary tea or coffee.

Waterford News & Star 12 April 2022

Conference on Autism

Double page spread in Waterford News & Star covering WDN Autism conference

Text of article: The self-discovery of living with autism by Dermot Keyes

Newspaper clipping from Waterford News & Star The self discovery of living with autism

Carmel Hennessy stood before the microphone at St. Patrick’s Gateway with calm, understated confidence.

She told the gathering assembled at the inaugural Waterford Disability Network (WDN) Conference on Autism that she’d written down what she needed to say on a sheet of A4 paper. As she shared her story, Carmel spoke from the heart with colour, eloquence and clarity. I suspect there’ll be few better speeches I’ll report on all year.

“I was officially diagnosed as autistic about two years ago, just before the pandemic hit”, she began.

“The signs were probably always there but it wasn’t until I went to the National Learning Network (NLN, on the Cork Road) to do a retail course that things began to fall into place and I began to see others with kind of similar world views. For me, it was like being an ugly duckling and walking in and seeing a load of other swans and thinking, ‘woah, this is interesting’. An amazing journey was about to begin for me.”

Waterford News & Star, Tuesday, 19 October 2021
Matt Shanahan, TD, Sean Rohan, office manager WDn and Blaise Hannigan standing outside the WDN office
Newspaper article Wheelchair scheme proposed for Déise's Blue Flag Beaches

Text of article:Wheelchair scheme proposed for Déise's Blue Flag beaches by Darren Skelton

An idea that has been proposed more than once at Waterford City & county Council meetings is once again being pushed to the fore, by independent TD Matt Shanahan and former Councillor Blaise Hannigan.

     “Myself and Blaise, who is a well known community activist in Tramore and always has been, before and after local politics, have been reviewing accessibility to beach areas in the county when the problem of access for wheelchair users became apparent,” Deputy Shanahan said. “Wheelchairs that are not ‘purpose built’ have great difficulty in being rolled along sand and stony areas. It is almost impossible for the user or any person attending a user to bring a conventional chair safely onto the beach for the purpose of enjoying what so many of us take for granted – time spent close to the shore or on the beach. From looking at the problem and speaking to both wheelchair users and representative groups it became apparent there are already existing specified beach wheelchairs in place in some other coastal counties which are managed through the beach life-guards service.”

     “The Irish Wheelchair Association have been contacted and are supportive of such a programme in Waterford,” Deputy Shanahan said. “If the initiative was approved a first lot of wheelchairs could be designated for county blue flag beaches capable of navigating all of the main access areas for 2022.”

     The proposal would enable families to take responsibility for managing their users in the chairs, which would be available to reserve through a website booking. According to Deputy Shanahan, if the scheme were to prove popular, “further initiative might be developed to allow for hoist access for those with minimal mobility to access the beach.”

     “This would require dedicated and qualified healthcare personnel but there are chairs available internationally that allow wheelchair users to swim in the sea safely with attendants – what a wonderful gift a swim in the sea would be to somebody confined to a wheelchair,” Deputy Shanahan added.

     At this month’s Council Plenary Meeting, a number of councillors, notably fine Gael’s Lola O’Sullivan and Fianna Fáil’s Eamon Quinlan, took Deputy Shanahan to task, accusing him of not knowing that there already was a beach wheelchair in Tramore.

     “I think that Mr Shanahan has obviously taken his finger off the pulse and is not aware of what’s happening in Waterford,” Cllr O’Sullivan said. “I’m currently working with Waterford Sports Partnership and other agencies to provide a similar model to the one that’s currently operational in Tramore to other beaches such as Clonea and Bonmahon.”

     Following the Plenary Meeting, Blaise Hannigan contacted the Waterford News & Star to clarify that both himself and Deputy Shanahan were “aware and appreciative” of the work that the councillors have been doing to raise this issue, notably Cllrs O’Sullivan, Griffin and Quinlan, but that their intention was for a “dedicated beach wheelchair service for all of Waterford’s blue flag beaches.

     “Having a single adapted chair hidden in one beach area of the county is probably the reason that disability groups or even our own local authority don’t advertise the service,” Deputy Shanahan added. “Many wheelchair users are unaware of any Waterford service including the national representative wheelchair body.”

The Munster Express, Tuesday, 24 August 2021
Newspaper clipping of website launch

Text of article: Waterford Disability Network launches new website and presents inaugural award by Kieran Foley

Waterford Disability Network has launched its new website and presented its inaugural Inclusion Award.

Mayor of Waterford City and County Cllr Joe Kelly (Ind) was in attendance at a special event held at Waterford Disability Network’s New Street offices in the city on Monday August 16th. Due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, attendance at the event was restricted but several organisations such as Waterford and South Kilkenny branch of Down Syndrome Ireland and ’50 Shades of Exceptional’ were represented.

Waterford Disability Network secretary Jo Cregan complimented Emily Breen in the Waterford Disability Network office for curating much of the content on the website. She also thanked David Fitzpatrick Web Design who designed the website to be as user friendly as possible. Gratitude was also expressed to the Granary Café who have always supported Waterford Disability Network.

Office manager Seán Rohan gave a demonstration of the new website. He explained that more content will be added based on feedback. It’s intended that videos will become a major feature as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

In relation to the inaugural Inclusion Award, he explained he had contacted InvincABLE Fitness Gym asking if the fitness centre would come on board as sponsor. “They were very enthusiastic so the certificate comes with €150,” he said.

Due to the success of its Football For All programme, it was agreed that Bohemians FC should be the recipients of this year’s award. Mayor Kelly and Rachel Beckett of InvincABLE Fitness presented the award to Dave Whittle, Club Chairman, who said many people in the club were responsible for the Football For All programme and that he was very happy to accept the award on behalf of all of them. He said the funding would go directly into funding the Football For All programme in the club.

From next year onwards, the Inclusion Award will be open to any non-disabled specific voluntary group in Waterford such as a sports club, drama society, scout troop, Tidy Towns committee etc. to nominate themselves or be nominated by anyone.

Meanwhile, Mayor Kelly said attending such events is the most enjoyable aspect of his role as Mayor. He spoke of the importance of inclusion at all levels of society and he congratulated Bohemians FC and wished the Inclusion Award success in the coming years. Also commenting on the award, Rachel Beckett of InvincABLE Fitness Gym said: “Inclusion may be a small word but to all of us at InvincABLE Fitness it is hugely important and is the cornerstone of what we do. We are very proud to be the only fitness centre of our kind in the country. We believe inclusion for all leads to a much greater feeling of self-confidence and personal growth which are vital components to living a full and happy life.

Everyone deserves a chance to be a part of and excel in whatever area of interest they wish regardless of abilities. For us it is a great privilege to be associated with such a truly meaningful award which leads the way for change in Waterford  City and County alongside our friends in Waterford Disability Network. Inclusion for all is a must! Congratulations to Bohemians FC on being the very first recipients of this award – keep up the great work.”

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