The Irish Wheelchair Foundation (IWA ) was founded in 1960 by a small group of wheelchair users committed to improving the lives of people with physical disabilities in Ireland. Today there are 20,000 members and more than 2,000 staff, as well as many volunteers who are dedicated to enhancing the community-based organisation.
The IWA aims to identify the needs of people with limited mobility; empower people with the skills and backup to help them address their identified needs and to participate in society; create awareness of the rights and needs of its members among policy makers, service providers, the public; advocate with and on behalf of people with limited mobility for improved services and benefits and provide and promote appropriate services.
The resource centres in Mayo offer mainly a social outlet. The range of programmes offered includes arts and crafts; aromatherapy, sports, day trips, gardening, bingo, table quiz programmes, and holidays. People with physical and sensory disabilities can go along to a social setting where they can make and meet friends. “We ask our members what they want, rather than what we have to offer. Our service delivery follows a person centred approach, with the emphasis being on personal choice,” says Martina Reid, service manager with the IWA in Mayo.
Depending on the centre, services are available up to three days a week. A typical day involves four to five hours participating in various activities or programmes. A hot meal is also offered to those going to the centre. IWA buses can assist people who have no transport to get to one of the centres. The IWA currently run centres in Castlebar, Claremorris, Ballina, Belmulllet, and Glenamoy. However people from other towns also attend these centres.
IWA is a ‘very good service’
One service user is Farah Hoban (29 ) from Liscarney, Westport. Farah, who is the eldest of three, has been using the service since she finished attending St Anthony’s Special School.
Attending on Monday and Tuesday, Farah is brought to and from her home in IWA transport. She said that it “gets me out of the house”, “it’s a very good service” and “I enjoy meeting up with people” and have “made a load of friends”.
At the centre, Farah said she likes to play bocce, take part in arts and crafts, play bingo, and go on organised trips, such as to the local bowling alley.
The IWA also has IWA holiday centres, with Farah attending the Cuisle Holiday Centre near Roscommon during the summer, which she really enjoyed, and she is looking forward to returning on an upcoming trip which is taking place on November 12.
The IWA to Farah is extremely important as if it were not for the service, “I'd be at home looking at the four walls.”
Farah said that staff and volunteers at the centre are “very nice” and are always willing to help. She sums up her experience at the centre saying, “I love it.”
The IWA national fundraising Angel Campaign is starting this weekend with Angel pins being sold for €2 each. Please please support this campaign. All funds raised in Mayo stay in Mayo and help support vital services.
IWA is a registered charity and is always looking for volunteers to assist the local services. Volunteers are involved in fundraising, which is vital to bridge the shortfall in funding necessary to maintain vital service for people with disabilities in Mayo.
If you would like to help out contact the office at 7 Davitt lane, Castlebar. Tel: 094 906 0937 or 087 678 9843. Alternatively you can contact Martina Reid, service manager, at [email protected]