FINE Gael councillor Jimmy Kavanagh is calling for the issue of disability to be put front and centre of the new Letterkenny Area Plan.
“ There is an opportunity now in the process of devising the new plan to make disability a central part of that plan,” said Councillor Kavanagh.
“This is something I have requested from the planners in our workshops and it is something that I hope they will respond positively to.
“Disability has for far too long been an ‘us and them’ issue and that approach needs to change. We need to realise that disability is about everyone – anyone of us is only a traffic accident, a fall or an illness away from finding ourselves disabled.”
Letterkenny is already part of a nationwide drive to make towns and cities ‘age-friendly’. Making disability a central part of the Area Plan would dovetail perfectly into that initiative, according to Jimmy Kavanagh.
“Many of the issues facing people with disabilities impact equally on elderly citizens so we could also in the process help remove any stigma attached to disability.
“We should therefore make disability a core consideration in the planning not just of our buildings, footpaths and so on but also our social housing design, the design of our parks, transport facilities, walks, leisure facilities.
“We should also be looking at making our workplaces accessible so that people with a disability are not excluded from applying or getting employment. Our own public bodies could lead on an initiative to achieve this. Currently in Donegal only 18 per-cent of people with a disability are in employment and I have found on my canvass that the issue of young people with a disability, both physical and intellectual, finding it extremely difficult to get employment is a recurring theme, even though in many instances these are well educated and very gifted people.”
The 2016 census revealed that almost 23,000 people in Donegal are living with at least one disability. Incorporating the issue into the area plan would therefore enhance the lives of thousands of local citizens.
“Letterkenny and Donegal has a chance to lead the way in helping to tackle the issues facing the disabled and we should take the opportunity that the new Letterkenny Area Plan presents to lay the groundwork for improved access and facilities for those with a disability. If we do that we will not just improve the lives of the disabled and elderly we will also enhance the lives of our entire community, by helping people of all abilities to thrive and contribute to the future development of the area, Councillor Kavanagh added.