A local wheelchair user has spoken out about the problems experienced in Longford town on a daily basis by people with physical disabilities.
Joe Donlon, who is originally from the Lanesboro area, has been wheelchair-bound for the past 15 years, following a battle with Hodgkins disease.
“There are lots of places I can’t go to, like functions and family gatherings” he said.
“We have to check in advance to see if the places we’re going to have wheelchair access,” explained his daughter, Joanne Conway, who cares for her father and often accompanies him on his trips into town.
Joe explained that a restaurant booked for a recent family function was chosen because it was one of the few such establishments in town which is located at ground level. However, he found he could not access their toilet facilities.
“He had to be taken to a pub down the street so he could use the ladies’ toilet there, as that’s the only one he could get his wheelchair into,” Joanne added.
Simple activities such as shopping also present challenges for Joe. “There are some places in town I haven’t been into in 14 years because I can’t get in with the wheelchair,” he admitted.
His daughter backed up this statement by saying, “I have to leave him outside while I’m getting things in some shops because the aisles are either too cramped or there will be a step at the door. Adding ramps at doors and railings in toilets would make a difference.”
Access to buildings isn’t the only problem Joe encounters.
“The footpaths in town are brutal,” he exclaimed. “You have to go the length of the street to find a ramp on the footpath, and then have to go right back up the other side of the street to get to where you’re going.”
And even where there are ramps on the footpath, there is often another problem.
“There’s a lip on some of the ramps, which he can’t get his wheelchair over without help,” said Joanne. “They need to be more flush with the road.”
Car-parking, too, is a cause of frustration for Joe.
“Firstly, there are not enough disabled spaces,” Joanne explained. “And a lot of the time, someone will be parked in the space and only occasionally will the car have a disabled sticker.”
“They paid €63,000 for half a fiddle on the bypass, but they can do nothing about these things.”