This research undertaken by Inclusion Ireland and Trinity College Dublin, was funded under the NDA Research Promotion Scheme 2017.

The theme for the research funded under the scheme was 'The Effective Promotion and Support of Community Integration of People with Disabilities.'

19 Stories of Social Inclusion – Ireland: Stories of Belonging, Contributing and Connecting

Word (2018)


4.049 MB

Here are some of the 19 Stories:

Video stories

Jenny's story

John's story

Margaret's story

Marian's story

Michael's story

Nicole's story

Orla and Brendan's story

Patrick's story

Stephen's story

Brian's story

Written stories

“I’m an independent person who has achieved many goals”

I am a 35-year-old woman who lives independently and works part-time.

Carina's story
Carina in the kitchen of the pub and restaurant where she works

I feel that I am an independent person who has achieved many of the goals that I have set out to reach. I have a job that I love and live independently in a house I have shared for the last 3 years. I do my own shopping, cleaning and managing the house. I can do my own cooking but my dad often cooks us dinner as he works on the farm nearby us. I have family living nearby that I can walk to and I enjoy that. Where I am living now is more of a community than where I used to live. My neighbours are supportive by giving me lifts to the bus or train if I need it, as I live in the countryside.

I like having the independence of being able to choose how I live. I have a lovely modern home which has everything I need. I have my own separate TV, which I put on a timer at night so that I won’t leave it on all night if I fall asleep watching it.

“I love earning my own money”

I feel I am a hardworking person and have worked in a few different places but the job I am in at the moment is definitely the best one I have worked in. I love working because it allows me to meet new people. Also I would be bored sitting around every day if I wasn’t working.

I work in Busker Browns which is a busy pub and restaurant in Galway City. I have been working there for 5 years now. I was able to get this job as I was placed on the “Let’s Get to Work Project” in the Brothers of Charity Services Galway. An outreach support worker on this project helped me to think about what type of work I would like and what sort of things I was good at. We talked about the experience I had already gained in past jobs and also what I liked and disliked about those jobs which helped us realise what I was looking for.

I work two shifts every weekend and three if there is a bank holiday or busy period coming up. I take great care to make sure I am not too tired for work and always turn up with plenty of time to spare. Most of my work involves setting up the bar and restaurant for service, ensuring the serviettes are folded correctly, making sure all the condiments are filled up and also to have all the cutlery polished and separated, ready for service. I do these jobs as others are depending on what is required of me.

My favourite bit of the work is chatting to the people I work with when we are on breaks. We also have some social outings from work, like at Christmas and other times throughout the year. I always really enjoy these events. I love earning my own money. It’s my money, which I know I have worked hard for. I really know my job well now and I am asked to train in new people into my job when I am due to go on annual leave from work.

Busker Browns – ‘Carina is great to work with. She is a fantastic worker and always comes into work in good form ready for a busy day with a smile on her face’.

“I love spending time with my boyfriend and friends”

I take part in adult education every year and we can choose courses that we would like to take part in and the areas I feel I would like to improve. I have done lots of courses which have helped me to live an independent life. These include courses on gardening, cooking, literacy, relationships and so on. Over the years I have received certification for many of these courses and after completing level 3 in some modules, I will be progressing to level 4 next year.

One of the great things about having a job is that I earn my own money. This has helped me to travel to places such as Malaysia and Australia, where I have been to visit family. I am hoping to travel to America next year.

Outside of work and education, I have loads of hobbies I enjoy. I have a boyfriend for five years and a great group of friends. We enjoy playing soccer and bowling together in our Special Olympics clubs. We also love playing basketball and going swimming. I meet up with my boyfriend and my friends every few days. I love spending time with them. We usually like to do things like going shopping, going to the cinema and eating out.

“Talk to people who can help you reach your goals”

The advice I would give to someone looking to live independently is to talk to people in your service or in community groups that can help you reach your goals. For me, I was lucky that family found me somewhere to live but the Brothers of Charity Services Galway were able to give me extra support in independent living skills.

If you would like to find employment, see if the service you are in has someone who supports people in this area. My outreach support worker in the Brothers of Charity Services Galway was able to support me to figure out what area of employment I would be good at and that I would also enjoy. She helped me to write up my CV, prepare for job interviews and also helped me to find a job I love.

In the future I hope to be continuing my career in Busker Browns, always learning new things which will help me with new roles in there.

About Cathy

Cathy is a proud Cobh woman. She is a talented public speaker and has an extensive knowledge of and love for pop music, in particular 1980’s music. A little known fact about Cathy is that she once ran a pirate radio station with her brothers from a shed in their garden! Cathy has experienced a lot of hard times in her life and has lived in the world of ‘services’ since 4 years of age. She attended specialist schools and rehabilitative training programmes, eventually culminating in residential care. Cathy is acutely aware of the different trajectory her life has taken in comparison to others but is slowly and surely working towards finding her place in the world.

Cathy’s Story

My name is Cathy Doyle. I grew up in Cobh, County Cork. During my life, there have been good times and bad times.

I was bullied a lot because I had a disability. Kids used to call me names and set their dogs on me. But I knew deep down that I was as good as anyone else, but not better.

‘Your home is your castle’
Cathy shopping in Ikea
Cathy shopping in Ikea

When I was in my early twenties I came to live in residential services in Cope Foundation. I lived in my last residence for 12 years. I wasn’t really happy there because I didn’t like living with 11 other women. A good thing that came out of this was that the staff there supported me to get involved with New Horizons (an individualised support service in Cope Foundation). I was linked up with my support coordinator and I pleaded with her to get a place of my own. When a single apartment became available I went for the interview and I had to wait three weeks for an answer. Pot luck, I got a lovely apartment and I was thrilled to bits!

I am living in the apartment 3 years on the 2nd of November. I am really, deep down happy that I am living there. The reasons are: I have my own washing machine and can do my washing whenever I like; I have a fridge and a dish washer but I prefer to wash my dishes myself; I have a lovely cooker and a telly. The apartment was done up really lovely when I got it and I went up to Dublin to Ikea for the day and bought some new things to make it my own. I always say ‘Your home is your castle’!

“I get to make my own decisions and choose how I want to live my life”

I still find many things difficult but I have support when I need it. It is really important who supports me. I like quiet people who are calm and patient and not too ‘buzzy’. My support workers are helping me to become more confident and independent. Being independent means that I get to make my own decisions and choose how I want to live my life and I get support to do the things I want to do.

Since moving, I have joined a local knitting group where I have made some friends. We have lunch out for special occasions like Valentine’s Day and for Christmas and it is great because one of my friends will collect me and drop me home in their car. I also joined a local active women’s group but some of the women there were not so welcoming or understanding and I felt they didn’t want me so I stopped going. I know I have a disability but I feel that I can’t fit in with people who have disabilities and sometimes I can’t fit in with people that don’t have disabilities. This can make me very sad and lonely.

My mam has passed away recently and my dad is in a nursing home. My support worker supports me to visit him. The nurses there let me know when he needs anything and I enjoy buying them for him. I have two brothers who I am very close to. We meet up when we can and sometimes they visit me in my apartment.

One very good thing that has happened is that I have completed a night class in public speaking at Ashton Adult Education Centre and from that I joined my local Toast Masters group. I gave my first ‘ice breaker’ speech after only a few weeks and got excellent feedback. I was so proud.

“Being paid as a visiting lecturer made me feel really valued”

Last year I gave a talk to the Intellectual Disability Nursing students at UCC and got paid as a visiting lecturer which made me feel really valued and I am looking forward to returning again this year. I have also volunteered to give talks to staff and advocacy groups because I enjoy it so much.

I recently completed work experience with SHEP (a community based training and development organisation) and will hopefully be helping them in the future with some presentations.

“I’m looking forward to the future”

What I really want is to have a part time office job but all of that takes time and I know that it will happen when the time is right. I am really happy for that. I know I have a lovely home and I am not ashamed to say that I still get my ups and my downs but I am not ill all the time and I have lots of happy times too. I mainly get sad about things in my past and I wish they had been different. I would like to have been a nurse or a doctor. I am learning now that I cannot change the past and it is better to live each day as it comes and make it as happy as can be. I have also learnt that it is best to take small steps. I know that my future holds good things for me and I am looking forward to that.

“I’ve achieved a lot in my life”

I am 35 years of age and have achieved a lot in my life. I have had to fight to have control of my life and to have the right to make my own decisions.

I left school after the Leaving Certificate when I was 18 but I didn’t go on to any further education then. I was my mam’s carer for 5 years. Later I tried a few courses and went to the National Learning Network but it wasn’t for me.

I’ve always loved caring for kids. I was always the babysitter so I knew I wanted to do childcare. I went online and looked up Marino College and sent on an online application and was called for an interview. At the interview I told them that I needed supports and they said they would arrange it.

They put in place an education support person who would help me to go through the assignments and reading and she helped me with exams. I got extra time to do the exams and support in the exam room. I had a great supporter there. She was a learning support worker. We had a very good relationship and a lot of respect for each other. We both learnt from each other. She really understood me and helped me to manage the frustrating bits of college. She wrote a beautiful note about us after I left.

I approached the college and proposed that I take the two year course and pace it out over 4 years. I had to persuade them to do this but now that they have seen the value of this they are actually accommodating more students like that now.

I have recently been awarded a Level 6 childcare supervision and management qualification, with all distinctions, from Marino College after four years of study. This is something I am proud of and my family are proud of me too, and came to see me graduate.

I have just been accepted to the National College of Ireland to do a level 8 in Early Childhood Education leading to a degree.

I would say to anyone doing a college course you have to be focused on it – don’t just sit there and mess.

I also worked in a playschool with 20 kids. I did my work experience there for 4 years but was an SNA for a little boy in the same playschool. I’m interested in working with children with special needs.

Claire's graduation
Claire's graduation
“It’s important to keep changing and learning”

I’m starting a new job working in a Montessori, working as an SNA for 9 kids with special needs. I’m looking forward to working there as it’s all about inclusion.

It is important that workers get their proper rights when working and access to ongoing training in their job. A lot of employers discriminate against people with disabilities, even if they’re able to do the job. People’s attitudes can change if they hear you have a disability.

It is important to keep changing and learning. I keep doing any courses I can to improve my work.

Over the years I have done a lot of volunteer work. I have volunteered for summer projects working with disadvantaged kids in the inner city.

I have also undertaken an amount of advocacy work, particularly around the Lunacy Act and changing the law. I have been involved in research, spoken at Inclusion Ireland AGMs, done training work and spoken at conferences.

My mother died when I was in my twenties and I cared for her for 5 years. After she died the will she had written hadn’t been signed so the solicitors got involved and I had to fight to receive my inheritance. I was made a ward of court and they told me it was to protect my money. I didn’t know at the time it would also mean that I could not even go to the doctors without the court’s permission, go on holidays or get married.

They wanted me to shut down my bank account. I couldn’t get state supports such as Disability Allowance because of my inheritance but I didn’t have anywhere to live. I became homeless and went into transitional housing. It was a terrible time. You had a key worker who I would see from time to time but no real support. I had no services outside of housing support.

“I knew I wanted to have my own home”

I knew I wanted to have my own home, but they wouldn’t allow me to buy a home while I was a ward. I wanted to get a pet dog but wasn’t allowed. I knew I had to get out of being a ward of court so decided to fight this with the support of my cousin and aunt and with the support of Inclusion Ireland. To get out of being a ward of court I had to prove I could make my own decisions. I had to get assessed by the original psychologist and psychiatrist. Both of them said that I had the capacity to look after my own affairs so the President of the High Court discharged me from wardship.

Once I was released I went about buying my house. My cousin and my aunt helped me to look for a house. I wanted to live near my family and near the bus routes to get to and from college and my doctor. On Valentine’s days 2013, I got the keys to my new home and in May I got my pet dog Marley.

You can read more about my story in this article I wrote:

My Work

I work two days a week, 9am to 5pm, in the County Council Offices in Kilkenny, as a Receptionist. This is a job that I really enjoy and suits my strengths as I am an outgoing person and I always enjoy meeting people. I enjoy being useful. I enjoy being helpful and it’s good to be appreciated and valued. I really enjoy getting to meet more people.

I have worked in this job for 6 or 7 years and got the job through a work experience placement organised by the National Learning Network. I now have a permanent job in the Council. SOS, my family and the County Council support me with any changes or challenges in work.

I enjoy my coffee breaks in the canteen in work. This gives me a chance to meet other work colleagues and there is always somebody to have a chat with. We also have a Social Club where we go on outings. We also do things like bingo and bowling.

I go for lunch in the same restaurant the two days that I work in town and I have made friends through this. I enjoy the banter with people especially about the hurling and the sociability of it all.

My Social life

I have a busy social life which I organise for myself. I meet up with a friend every Monday evening and we go to the cinema together. Sometimes we head off for a day trip to Dublin and other spots.

I have a regular Social Club that I attend on a Wednesday evening and I enjoy this too. We might watch TV, chat, sometimes we go out for food and music or bowling.

I get great enjoyment from my involvement in sports. I play pitch and putt and bocce in the Special Olympics. I have done this for the past 20 years. We train every Tuesday evening and sometimes at the weekend, coming up to a competition. We enter a league every year and we meet the same people year after year and also make new friends. It’s nice to catch up. We might win the league this year.


I have become more involved in self-advocacy work over the last few years. I am on the SOS Advocacy Committee in my day centre. I have also done some work with Inclusion Ireland. This is important work to me as I feel the opinions and voice of people with disabilities needs to be heard and this is my chance to be involved. It has also helped my confidence and I feel that I am part of decision-making processes for people with disabilities and that other people are just not deciding for us, that we count and need to be heard and listened to.

My Supports

I am happy living in Kilkenny and have become part of my community through my family, where I live, SOS, the County Council and my social life. These are my supports that help me make the best choices for my life so that I live it to my full potential.

I love working in SOS and I am happy to go there during the week. My Supervisor is great to work with and listens to me and helps me in whatever way he can. I can see the Social Worker at any time and they always take the time to listen to me and also care about my family’s needs.

I live with my mam and my sister also lives nearby. I am 10 minutes from the centre of town which makes access to work and my social life easier for me and my family. I love living with my mam and it’s good to have company in the house. My mam also cooks my dinner for me.

My sister drives me to wherever I need to go. She also brings me to training for the Special Olympics. She also helps me with my clothes and any forms that I need to be filled out.

I am very lucky with my supports.

“Having work and paid employment made it possible for me to achieve what I have today, which is my own place…”

I live in Co Clare and am 50 years of age. I have a busy and independent life. Getting a job 17 years ago with Seed Savers opened up opportunities for me. Once I had the steady income from my job, I was able to think about living on my own. I rented a place in the village in 2006 and then put my name on the council’s housing list. I was lucky enough to be offered this two-bedroomed house on the edge of the village a couple of years later. I've been living here since the 15th of December 2008. I love where I live. I have good neighbours and it’s nice and quiet. It’s very, very important to get on with your neighbours. I can walk to work and to the village for my social life and my music. I’m within walking distance of almost everything.

Living independently is great and I really value that I can come and go as I want and have people to stay and so on, but it is also important to know that there is a lot of responsibility when you are living independently. You have to be very careful with your money so that you can meet your rent and your other bills. You need to understand the contracts you are getting into. This is all important. But it IS worth it.

Seed Savers is a great place to work. I work with a good bunch of people and I meet a lot of people coming though the place from Ireland and overseas. I work 2 to 3 days a week. I maintain the lawns and I am one of the land workers outside. If there is a big event, we all pull together and help each other out. It is a social place to work and we sometimes head off for a night out together. Employability Clare supported me to get this job 17 years ago and since then I have worked independently here. I get great satisfaction working here. It is a nice peaceful place to work.

“People with intellectual disabilities…need to encourage each other to be involved and to contribute to our communities”

I have a lot of interests. I’m interested in sports and I have met more people through my interest in music than any other way. I’ve picked up a lot of friendships through music. I took up the spoons a number of years ago. It has been great. It provides me with lots of opportunities to join in on music sessions.

I have been very involved in my community over the last 20 years. For many years, I was involved in youth work through the community development programme (CDP). I was also on the Board of the CDP for a time. I have retired from all that now.

I believe that people with intellectual disabilities should support others with intellectual disabilities to have fuller lives. We need to encourage each other to be involved and to contribute to our communities. People with intellectual disabilities should not be hidden away. I was part of the group that set up the Platform for Self-Advocates in 2011. I was its first Chairperson. I have been involved in advocacy for many years.

I have a sense of belonging here. A lot of people know me from being involved in so much around Scariff. I believe it is very important that people with disabilities are seen and take part in their communities and are not in institutions.

Joe busy writing
Joe busy writing

“It was my ambition for many, many years to live independently”

I love living in my own apartment. I like doing my own thing, being independent.

I am 61 and two years ago, I got my independence and moved into my own apartment. It was my ambition for many, many years to live independently.

For many, many years I have lived in hostel accommodation or community homes with staff. I am so happy to live here with no staff. I can go to bed and get up whenever I like. I like to make my own food. I manage my own medicines. I do my own shopping and cleaning. I have been able to make this apartment my own. I have decorated my bedroom in totally Harry Potter style. I am absolutely mad about Harry Potter. I have lots of posters up in the sitting room as well.

I am able to have my brother over for tea in my apartment.

“I have lots of interests and I meet up with my friends regularly”

Now that I am living independently, I make my own plans about what I am going to do. I really like this.

On a Saturday, I always go to Wilton Shopping centre. I love spending all day there. I know everybody in all the shops and I have my lunch in the same restaurant every Saturday. I have made friends with people working in the shops and some of them came to my 60th birthday last year. I have lots of interests, such as making jigsaws, music and anything to do with Harry Potter and I can buy those sorts of things in Wilton.

I also meet up with my friends regularly in town. We go to the pictures or go for something to eat.

“I feel like I can make my own life now that I have my own place”

Ever since I moved into this apartment, I have felt I could make my own plans. So I thought that I would really like to go to see the Harry Potter experience in London. I started to plan and I decided to bring my niece so that it would be safe if I travelled with someone else. We had a brilliant time and now I am planning my next trip. I would like to go to Euro Disney and to Old Trafford. I would never have been able to do that if I was in a community house.

Also since I came to live in my apartment, I have taken part in community groups and classes. I used to attend a cookery class in the local community centre. I really enjoyed that. That has finished for the moment.

I am a member of the local slimming world.

My support worker has helped me to find these groups in my community.

I like trying new things. I’m adventurous.

I travel around on my own on the buses and I like to walk down by the Lough.

I feel like I can make my own life now that I have my own place.


I live in county Kilkenny, in Loughboy, outside Kilkenny city. I’m 44 years of age and I lived with my mother and father until two years ago when I moved into a supported living arrangement.

“Once the bank made the physical adaptations…I was able to work independently”

I work two mornings a week in a bank centre, Banking 365, inputting data. I’ve been working there for 11 years and work independently. The disability services helped me identify the sort of job I might be good at. Then they found this job for me and supported me at the beginning to learn the skills of the job. It was difficult at first and took some concentrating but I did it. Once I learnt these skills and once the bank made the physical adaptations to the bank such as ramps and wheelchair accessible toilets, I was able to work independently.

I like my work because it keeps my brain ticking over and I am meeting people. I’m one of them.

“I enjoy meeting different people”

I joined a local knitting group about 2 years ago in my local library. A support worker where I live found this knitting group for me and supported me to make the first contact. Now I am independent. I can make my own way there because it is close to where I live. I really enjoy the knitting club as you meet different people. You can just come and chat or chat and knit.

I have a good social life. I am a member of a local social club called Club 96. We meet up weekly and then we sometimes go on outings. I also meet a friend for coffee every Friday.

“I am making a difference”

I want to campaign to make places more accessible for people with disabilities so I have a blog. I review places in Kilkenny and then put up a blog describing their facilities

I’m happy about this blog because I think I am making a difference to how accessible things are in Kilkenny.

I have also done some educational work in local colleges – making people aware of the needs of persons with disabilities.