What is it like to canvas for election when you are disabled?

3 May 2019
By Mary Bermingham
mary@TheCork.ie

Social Democrats candidate for Cork County Council, Evie Nevin says the poor infrastructure and inaccessibility of West Cork is making canvassing difficult for mobility impaired candidates.

The mother-of-two is a part-time wheelchair user due to her rare disease, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.

The condition means she becomes injured very easily even dislocating her joints without trauma.

 

“There are days where I can’t use my wheelchair because I can’t get through housing estates because the footpaths are in such a bad state or the planning of estates didn’t have people with mobility issues in mind. This has led to me really damaging my body. In just one area alone I have dislocated my hips and ankles, damaged tendons and ended up being covered in bruises.

When you live with a mobility impairment and chronic illness and you’re spending 2-3 hours a day out knocking on doors, you have to conserve your energy where you can. You need to put all your effort into speaking to constituents and listening to their concerns. They have a right to meet all their candidates. There are people living in these areas with disabilities and I don’t know how they manage”.

 

According to the County Council hopeful, accessibility issues are a common theme on the doors.

“People with disabilities and their carers are telling us at the doors that they avoid going into their local towns because it’s more hassle than it’s worth. I am lucky because if I really have to, I can get up out of the chair and use my cane or crutches. Others don’t have that privilege. Living in a town or village that doesn’t cater to everybody’s needs leads to social isolation for both the person with the disability and those who care for them.”

One of Evie’s main priorities is to make West Cork more accessible for residents and tourists.

“So far it’s been all talk and no action and not just in relation to accessibility, but in other areas too. I plan to go on to Cork County Council and use my lived experience to improve the lives of the people of West Cork.

We are so privileged to live in such a beautiful place with amazing community spirit, but there are issues that make it less than perfect. We need to address them now and stop putting them in the back burner.

Not only are we isolating residents in our area, we are also isolating tourists with all kinds of disabilities. The land of one hundred thousand welcomes and we excluding quite a substantial amount of people from visiting what is without a doubt one of the most beautiful constituencies in Ireland”.

But it’s not just rural areas that are letting people with disabilities down, according to Evie even cities like Dublin are difficult to get around.

“So many people move to cities because they are more accessible than small towns but there are still a lot of issues in urban areas that need addressing.

When we look after the most vulnerable in society, everybody benefits. Disabilities do not discriminate. They can happen to anyone, at anytime, no matter their age or gender. With our ever ageing population, we need to be addressing access issues for everybody.

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