The Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities was established on the 29th November, 1993 by the Minister of Equality of Law Reform, Mervyn Taylor, TD., with the following terms of reference:
- To advise the Government on practical measures necessary to ensure that people with a disability can exercise their rights to participate, to the fullest extent of their potential, in economic, social and cultural life.
- To examine the current situation of people with a disability and the organisation and adequacy of existing services, both public and voluntary, to meet their needs.
- To make recommendations setting out necessary changes, in legislation, policies, organisation, practices and structures to ensure that the needs of people with disabilities are met in a cohesive, comprehensive and cost effective way.
- To establish the estimated costs of all recommendations made, and
- To report to the Government within a period of two years from the date of its establishment.
The Commission received some 600 written submissions, a majority of them (327) from individuals with disabilities. A further 111 submissions came from parents and others close to people with disabilities while 162 submissions were received from organisations. In addition, the Commission held 30 "listening meetings" at ten centres around the country as well as at a number of locations in and around Dublin. Members of the Commission heard at first hand at these meetings of the frustrations and problems facing people with disabilities. Between the submissions and the listening meetings, the Commission drew up a comprehensive picture of the lifestyles of people with disabilities.
The Commission appointed a number of Working Groups and individuals to examine and develop proposals on various issues. Their reports, a number of which the Commission is making available publicly, provided an extremely valuable input into the Commission's deliberations. These reports represent the views of the Working Groups which produced them, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Commission. The membership of the individual Working Groups is contained in Appendix E.
Public life does not stand still while a Commission deliberates. During the lifetime of the Commission, several important issues arose which were of great significance to people with disabilities, and these were taken up by the Commission.
A comprehensive submission was made, under the chairmanship of Commission member Dr. Gerard Quinn, to the Constitution Review Group, recommending specific amendments to the Constitution to ensure equal rights to people with disabilities in all aspects of Irish life.
Submissions were made to the Minister for Equality and Law Reform, Mervyn Taylor, T.D. Concerning the content of proposed Equality Bill and the Equal Status legislation. As well as making general proposals as to the manner of securing equal rights for people with disabilities, the Legislation Working Group made a technical submission regarding the important matter of the definition of disability which would be appropriate to this legislation.
The Report of the Special Education Review Committee, published by the Minister for Education was followed by the White Paper "Charting our Education Future". The Commission's Education Working Group made a comprehensive submission to the Department of Education, focusing on the need for new education legislation which would ensure equality of opportunity, access and participation for disabled students, by creating entitlements to services and by providing for reasonable accommodation for all disabled students in mainstream schools. Members of this Working Group had the opportunity to meet with senior officials of the Department of Education on this issue.
A delegation from the Commission met with the Irish Minister for European Affairs to stress the importance of including a non-discrimination clause in the E.U. Treaty.
A comprehensive submission was made to the Working Group on a Courts Commission, highlighting the problems which people with disabilities face in securing access to one of the most fundamental rights in a democratic state, the right of access to the Courts and the legal system; proposals were fl1ade to the Working Group on Taxicab provision, dealing with this most important aspect of transport provision for people with disabilities; consultations took place with the Insurance Federation of Ireland, in respect of inequalities in the right of access to insurance provision; discussions took place with Aer Rianta and Aer Lingus regarding access to air travel.
The Secretariat of the Commission was provided by the Department of Equality and Law Reform and comprised of:
- Mr. Pat Wylie - Secretary
- Mr. Breandán Ó Cathasaigh
- Ms. Anne Colgan and
- Ms. Ann Casey
The Commission would also like to acknowledge, with thanks, the support and assistance they received from the following:
- Ms. LuciNDA MacMahon
- Ms. May McCarthy
- Ms. Irene O'Keeffe
- Ms. Eileen Bowden
- Ms. Betty Ann Carroll and
- Ms. Collette Deely
One of the most important aspects of the Commission itself was the fact that 60 per cent of its members were people with disabilities, their carers or family members. Its members were:
- Mr Justice Feargus Flood, Chairperson
- Sr. Angela Magee
- Mark Blake-Knox
- Frank Mulcahy
- Jacqui Browne
- Seamus Ó Cinnéide
- Anne Coogan
- Allen O'Connor
- John A. Cooney
- Kathleen O'Flaherty
- Paddy Doyle
- Margaret O'Leary
- Frieda Finlay
- Arthur O'Reilly
- Michael Gogarty
- Colman Patton
- David Leydon
- Gerard Quinn
- Paul McCarthy
- Annie Ryan
- Conn Mac Cinngamhna
- Fidelma Ryan
- * Anne McManus
- ** Frances Spillane
* replaced by John Bohan who in turn was replaced by Paula Lyons
** replaced by John Collins