In a bid to improve accessibility of public spaces across the county, newly formed Access for All Mayo Group (AFAM ) is appealing to members of the Mayo community to join forces with the group to create a strong voice which will highlight the problems encountered in the area and effect change.
Membership is open to people with a disability, parents of children with a disability, people with mobility issues, parents with children, older people and interested parties in the community of County Mayo.
AFAM is working closely with Mayo County Council and other agencies such as the Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA ), Local Link Transport and the Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI ) to highlight access issues in the county and ensure public spaces are universally accessible.
Information sharing is crucial to identify models of accessibility and best practice. A Facebook page has also been created and can be found at Access for All Mayo.
This week, AFAM has been collaborating with the DFI in advance of its annual Make Way Day campaign, which takes place today, Friday, September 24.
A group consisting of Ballina Municipal District Cathaoirleach, Cllr Annie May Reape and a number of councillors and interested parties, accompanied AFAM member and wheelchair user Noeline Ruane as she physically highlighted the access difficulties which she encounters daily.
Vehicles blocking pavement access as well as badly designed cobbled streets were some of the obstacles that affected Noeline’s mobility in the Ballina area.
DFI will launch an app that campaigners can use to identify and rate their local area for accessibility. AFAM will disseminate the results and work with the relevant authorities to improve those areas in Mayo that have been identified.
Chairperson Helen Applegarth said: "As a carer to my mother we frequently encounter obstacles whilst doing ordinary everyday tasks. A standout moment for us was whilst using a disabled parking space. It was raining, a puddle had formed because the drain was at the wrong side of the space, my feet were soaked whilst trying to get the wheelchair out of the boot.
"Quality of life should not be dependent on pavements, parking spaces and access. Nor should money be a barrier to improvement when common sense is free to all. Consulting with people with lived experience prior to planning infrastructure changes and repairs could make all the difference.
"Access for All Mayo is the latest addition to a growing network of Access Groups across Ireland. We ask for people to join in the conversation and get involved to highlight what works and what needs improvement."