Irish Wheechair Association

Uimhir Thagarta Uathúil: 
Irish Wheelchair Association
Líon na ndoiciméad faoi cheangal: 
Teorainneacha Gafa ar an léarscáil: 
Irish Wheelchair Association

Litir Chumhdaigh


Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA) has a vision of an Ireland where people with disabilities enjoy equal rights, choices and opportunities in how they live their lives, and where our country is a model worldwide for a truly inclusive society. We work with, and on behalf of, people with physical disabilities to drive positive change in Ireland through the influencing of public policy, the provision of quality services and enabling accessibility to all aspects of society.

Irish Wheelchair Association is Ireland’s leading representative organisation and service providers for people with physical disabilities. We advocate for the needs of people with physical disabilities and provide services and support to over 20,000 members in their homes and communities throughout Ireland every year.

Everything we do is driven by IWA’s vision of an Ireland where people with disabilities can enjoy equal rights, choices and opportunities and live their lives independently.

IWA believes in a fair and inclusive society. We work actively to ensure that every person with a physical disability in Ireland can achieve their right to an independent life, with equal access to opportunities, services and supports within their communities.

Services we provide:

• Irish Wheelchair Association is also an approved housing body specialising in wheelchair accessible housing which it provides directly to its members in Dublin, Carlow, Tipperary, Kilkenny, Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.

• Every year our 1,600 personal assistants provide over two million hours of support to help those with physical disabilities and other mobility impairments in their journeys towards independent living.

• We provide community centres, training facilities, social activities and holiday homes.

• The largest of our services is the Assisted Living Service which provides Personal Assistants to people in their own homes and communities.

• People are central to everything we do with a focus on improving quality of life.

For almost 60 years, IWA has pioneered the development and delivery of innovative, quality assured services to people with physical disabilities and has continually advocated for greater access to society for people with disabilities.

People with disabilities are strong independent people who have the right to be part of society and should be recognised as such, it is the environment (Housing/transport/street/city scape) that enables or disables a person with a disability.

This submission should be seen only as one stage of the consultation phase so that concerns raised by people with disabilities are dealt with as they are planned and not when they have been implemented. The need for ongoing meaningful consultation on a phase by phase basis is compulsory, understanding that a city that is accessible to a person with a disability is a city that is accessible to everyone.

The ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) brought with it a legal basis for people with disabilities to have the right to live independently. This independence will only come when it is truly realised that people with disabilities have the same rights as everyone else such as transport, housing, education employment etc. Unless real consultation and implementation of policy becomes a reality independence for people with disabilities will not be realised. It is imperative that Kilkenny Council implements the new Development Plan in a cross departmental structure if people with disabilities are to be really included in society with equal status to participate.

Irish Wheelchair Association welcomes the opportunity to participate in the Public Consultation Process.


IWA Submission on Movement and Mobility

Shared spaces

Shared spaces in theory is a good concept but in practice does not work for people with disabilities for many reasons. Shared Space, Shared Surfaces as an urban design concept is generally not supported by people with a disability and is not recommended by IWA as a safe and inclusive design approach to the design of urban streetscapes. There are several very specific elements of the Shared Space, Shared Surfaces design approach that cause anxiety for people with disabilities and other vulnerable streetscape users, namely:

• The removal of signal-controlled crossings

• Courtesy crossings, which are not signalled, depend on the ability of the pedestrian to negotiate a roadway crossing through eye contact with the motorist/cyclist which is a complicated and uncertain process.

• The concern that the person will not have sufficient time to cross the road or will have incorrectly understood the giving of permission from the motorist/cyclist to cross the road.

• The removal of kerbs is particularly problematic for people who have a visual impairment as kerbs provide a way-finding function.

• Pedestrian interaction with cyclists is of particular concern to vulnerable streetscape users where cyclists are not required to dismount when passing through a shared area or where cycle lanes with no kerb demarcation are routed through a shared space environment. Various UK reports , having studied and consulted regarding this design approach, have recorded that people with disabilities experience concern about the uncertainty created within these types of ‘shared’ environments and have consequently recommended the provision of ‘Comfort Zones’ within the Shared Spaces, Shared Surfaces design, ie designated pedestrian routes, kerbs between pedestrian and vehicle/cycle traffic and designated crossing points; effectively a return to the more usual and traditional streetscape design. Where a space is badly designed or located so that people feel uncertain of their ability to safely negotiate a crossing, then people with disabilities and other vulnerable road and street users may avoid the area completely, leading to greater social isolation and disconnected communities. Clearly, the inclusion of a ‘Shared Space, Shared Surfaces’ approach in an urban design project requires careful, collaborative and real consultation with people with disabilities and their representative organisations to ensure that the environment is safely and confidently usable by everyone. This consultative process should commence at the design and planning phase and should be cyclical in nature during the life of the project eg. regular feedback from users which can be incorporated into each phase of the design process.


Below is an example of the reality of shared spaces at uncontrolled traffic lights for a person with a disability. A person with a mobility issue may feel that they cannot judge the timing of traffic to enable them to cross safely, and a person with a visual impairment will be unable to know when it is safe to cross as they will not be able to see on-coming traffic which includes cyclists.

Cyclist using a Toucan Crossing cycling across the pedestrian section


Bus Island

These islands are known as “suicide islands” as people with disabilities feel they are taking their lives in to their own hands.  Again, they are being pitched against the cycling community but as a pedestrian they are more at risk from any type of vehicle traveling at speed. To suggest that a cyclist will slow down when coming to these shared spaces is not a reality.  Experience of people with a visual impairment already is that they have been knocked over and/or abused for stepping out when a cyclist is approaching them.  This is not a satisfactory or safe way for anyone to negotiate their way through the bus connects system. There is nothing in theses designs that force cyclists to slow down/stop/dismount which leaves the pedestrian in a very vulnerable position.     

Where a pedestrian must cross a cycle lane by an uncontrolled crossing to get to the bus stop.

These are where the cyclist crosses the front of the bus stop which means the pedestrian must cross a cycle lane. The plans do not show speed reduction methods being used here.

A cycle lane which makes the cyclists go in front ogf the pedestrian as the try and enter the bus



Cycle Behind Bus Stop

Very similar to a bus island except the entire space behind the bus stop is shared space.