"We, as people with disabilities, are shouldering our responsibility to ensure that disabled people are "included" as full citizens in Ireland. It is now time that everyone else joins this process, so that we can aIl live and participate together as equal members of society".

- excerpt from a submission

It is with great pleasure that I present the Report of the Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities to Government and so honour the pledge we gave to the many people with disabilities, their families and carers we met at our "Listening Meetings" held throughout the country and to those who made written submissions to us.

From the outset, the Commission made consultation and participation our highest priority. I hope that this approach will become part and parcel of the way in which policy will be formed in the future.

This Report is an equality strategy which will, if implemented, set about removing the barriers which stand in the way of people with disabilities who want to live full and fulfilled lives. It will also benefit greatly the parents and carers of people with disabilities. The Commission's strategy involves legislative solutions, proposals for new policy initiatives and new structures for delivery of equality services within a framework of rights, not charity. The Commission has developed a model of service which places the user of those services at the centre of the process of service delivery, from the planning stage right through to implementation.

While the Commission recommends that a reasonable time frame be set for the implementation of our recommendations, there are, however, a number of recommendations which require immediate attention. These are as follows:-

Recommendations 23.20 - 23.23 in relation to a special programme to replace substandard facilities for people with disabilities, with St. Ita's Hospital, Portrane receiving priority attention.

Recommendation 1.24 in relation to the provision of funding to the new Council for the Status of People with Disabilities.

Recommendation 2.5 in relation to the revision of the EU Treaties. Recommendation 7.31 in relation to the acute shortage of sheltered workplaces Recommendations 3.6 and 3.7 in relation to the retention and resourcing of the Department of Equality and Law Reform.

Recommendation 1 3.5 in relation to all new and used rail rolling stock and road vehicles ordered for public transport from January 1 st 1997.

I firmly believe that if these recommendations are implemented immediately, then a good start will have been made to tackling the gross in-equalities experienced on a daily basis by people with disabilities, their families and carers.

I would like to thank the members of the Commission for their dedication and commitment to our work and, in particular, to compliment our Secretary, Mr. Pat Wylie and the other members of the Secretariat without whose resourcefulness and forbearance this Report would not have been possible.

The Hon. Mr. Justice Feargus M. Flood

Chairperson to the Commission