Introduction

Since the National Disability Authority was established in 2000 we have built up a wealth of research and guidance resources to support progress in achieving the inclusion of people with disabilities in mainstream society.

Our policy advice is grounded in the evidence base we have brought together, by

  • Undertaking original research
  • Collating the national and international research evidence
  • Analysis of the statistical data
  • Documenting national and international good practice
  • Consulting on the lived experience of people with disabilities

Our guidance resources include

  • An online accessibility toolkit
  • Building for Everyone design guidance
  • Technical guidance on building and auditing accessible websites
  • Safe evacuation and egress for people with disabilities

Policy context 2013-2015

The policy context of the next three years will be framed by

  • The National Disability Strategy Implementation Plan
  • Planned ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • The European Union Disability Strategy and the Council of Europe Action Plan on Disability 2006-2015
  • Refocusing of disability support services in the light of a number of strategic policy reviews, with greater emphasis on supporting people to live more independently in the community, with greater choice and control
  • Continuing fiscal and economic challenges.

A key task of the National Disability Authority over the next three years will be to advise on practical implementation of these policy directions, recognising in particular that the focus on community will require building and strengthening of community capacity to integrate and support people with disabilities to live independent lives.

We will do this by building on the evidence to date taking account of the innovations that have emerged at local level in Ireland and in other jurisdictions. We will continue to guide on practical solutions in terms of systems and tools that can work in an Irish context:

  • To ensure quality and effective supports to independent living
  • To engage in cross-sectoral co-operation
  • To establishing the kinds of supports that enable individuals to live as active citizens in their local community, conscious of their changing needs across the lifecycle

A majority of the around 400,000 people with disabilities rely principally on mainstream supports and services, supplemented by specific disability supports. A key part of our work will continue to be advice as to how mainstream services - such as transport, mainstream health services or telecommunications - can support people with disabilities to live independent lives. We will guide on systems to enable new technologies, such as telecare and telehealth, support people's independence to be realised.

Many of the issues affecting people with disabilities are also common to people as they age. That is why the universal design approach is so important, designing places, products and systems from the outset so that can be used by all.

Ireland is facing into a period of demographic change. The impact of that change for people with disabilities will be further researched and analysed, to guide on sustainable communities, services and supports.

Although economic times are and will remain challenging, there should be no dilution of the basic values and standards that should underpin supports to people with disabilities. As Ireland gradually comes out of recession, it will be important to ensure that people with disabilities are positioned to benefit from any economic upturn.

We will continue to engage with Government Departments, public bodies and local government as well as other key stakeholders to ensure that our work is of value and can make a real difference to the benefit of people with disabilities. We will also recognise the roles of the private and voluntary sectors in supporting the achievement of an inclusive society.

The National Disability Authority recognises the importance of our role in enabling a space for learning on good practice, discussion and problem solving through our conferences, seminars and round table events on specific areas of policy and practice. We will continue to forge strategic partnerships as part of a structured ageNDA as the statutory advisor on policy, practice, standards and implementation, adopting an open and collegiate style of working while maintaining our independence.

We will provide a channel for listening to the lived experience of people with disabilities, in particular by managing an annual process of engagement through a listening forum, and through regular liaison with disability organisations.

As the Government's National Disability Strategy provides the basic framework to ensure a joined up approach across Departments and public bodies, we have set our first strategic priority to support its implementation and will focus on specific elements that fall for implementation in the next 3 years.

While many of the obligations arising from the articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities can be delivered through implementation of the National Disability Strategy, the National Disability Authority considers that Article 19 in particular, which addresses living independently in the community, warrants a specific strategic priority in our plan for the coming 3 years. We will continue to work to identify models of good practice to deliver person-centred approaches including personal budgets, quality of services and supporting transition to the new models.

As an independent body we will also monitor the implementation of standards and codes of practice for continued improvement of public services. We will work with stakeholders to focus on specific areas that could be progressed to make services in the local community accessible.

While much of our work is focused on disability, our mandate to promote excellence in universal design takes us beyond disability to the impact of design on all members of society regardless of anyone's age, size, ability or disability. Therefore, our third strategic priority will be focused on looking at areas where we can best influence the adoption of a universal design approach in education and in developing products and services that are used everyday.

Conscious of the public sector transformation ageNDA and in light of the fact that the National Disability Authority is operating with less, we will continue to ensure we are a valuable resource working to best effect, adding value in line with our statutory remit by being responsive, flexible and creative with our available resources.