Center for Independent Living, Mayo.
INDEPENDENT Living as a concept first came to light in California during the late sixties. When a young man called Ed Roberts went to Berkeley College. Because of his disability Ed initially lived in the college hospital and had to live his life around the rules and routine of it. As a result his social and community life was very restricted and in order to remedy this and other issues he and some other disabled students set up the first Centre For Independent Living.
THE late sixties was a lively time in San-Francisco and Ed and his friends found a ready audience for the argument that "disability is a rights issue rather than a charity issue." Thus it was in the progressive California of the late sixties that attitudes to people with disabilities began to change. Gradually the philosophy of "Independent Living" was formed. Over the next ten years CILs' opened all over the States and in several European countries all basing themselves on the same general ethos.
INDEPENDENT Living is more a philosophy than a movement. It is based on a few simple principles which seem self-evident when stated:
Principles of Independent Living
WHILE these things may seem obvious their application is the exception rather than the rule. Centres for independent living were established to empower the disabled thus enabling them to ensure that the above become the norm.
- The only true experts on disability are the disabled themselves.
- All people, regardless of disability, have the right to choose how they wish to live, so long as such choice does not harm others.
- If any person is receiving services from the state or others, they must have input as to how and by whom such service is delivered.
- As citizens of the state, the disabled must be given the same rights and the same opportunities as others and must also take on the same responsibilities as non-disabled citizens.
- In short "Nothing about us without us."
CIL in Mayo
DISABILITY was until very recently (and to a large extent still is) viewed as a charity issue in Ireland. This was a major bone of contention among the disabled themselves and it was in 1991 the first CIL opened in Ireland. It was based in Dublin and was started for much the same reasons as the first one in California. Namely that some people with disabilities wanted control over their own lives and greater involvement in the design and delivery of services intended for them.
CIL is an organisation run by and for people with disabilities and this ethos is continued to the greatest extent possible as new CILs' are opened around the country. There are currently 16 county CILs' with more planned for the future.
CIL Mayo first started in March 1995. We were the second outside Dublin and the first truly rural CIL. In our first year we employed 18 people as Personal Assistants throughout Co. Mayo. We increased this number to 26 in year two and we hope to increase it further this year and also to have some full-time jobs in place before years end.
WE address the issues as they apply in a rural area and as the are given to us by our members. Many of these problems are common to all people with disabilities while some, like isolation from neighbours, are peculiar to the country.
Technology for Independent Living
TECHNOLOGY can greatly alleviate some of problems of people with disabilities. This is particularly true of computers in the their many forms and if combined with other resources a huge range of possibilities opens up.
WHEN considering services for people with disabilities it is worth keeping in mind that very often something which helps them will also be of more general benefit to the community. Equally, when creating a service for the general public a little extra thought can make sure that it is available the disabled.
CARRYING shopping is often difficult for the disabled or elderly. Indeed it can be a hassle for anyone and a means of avoiding it would be a boon to all.
So how about this...
A shopper comes into a supermarket or shop and picks up a bar-code-reader into which she inserts her credit card or smart card. She walks around the shop examining the goods and when she finds something she wants she wipes the barcode reader over the products barcode, thus selecting it, and moves on. She repeats the process with each product selected and when finished goes to the check-out as usual. At the check-out the codes for her selected products together with name and address are downloaded from her hand-held bar-code-reader (by infrared or radio etc) to a terminal which in turn sends the information to a storage facility outside town. There the order is made up from on-site supplies and delivered to the buyers home later that day.
SUCH a system would, unlike TV shopping, allow a shopper to examine goods personally. The social aspects of shopping would not be lost and the general convenience would serve everyone. Traffic problems could be reduced by less frequent delivery to in-town shops and also there would be less need to take the car.
ACCESS TO INFORMATION.
OVER the last two years our research officer Pat Hallinan has done a very comprehensive survey of County Mayo. It is intended that the information generated be made available in a book directory and in a computerised database.
IF touch screens providing a range of information on such things as Social Welfare, tourist info, local advertising, etc. were made available at a few points around Castlebar, information on access for the disabled could be included.
IT could also be made available on the Internet for access from home computers and perhaps more detailed enquiries could be made on given topics and in foreign languages.
THE problem of access to education for the disabled can be tackled in some measure by the use of technology. Computers using various input devices such as "voice recognition" and laser mice can be used to aid writing and drawing. Interactive lessons can help with homework and general study while video-conferencing can be used to get around the problem of actual physical access to education facilities.
VIDEO conferencing could also be used in both mainstream and specialist education or training to give one-to-one tuition. This would enable schools to provide remedial teaching and individual teachers to give grinds more easily. Students could also help each other out on line thus reducing the need for travel to and from study sessions.
CIL is in the process of building several fully accessible houses in the Castlebar area some of which will be used as accommodation for disabled students attending the RTC. Video links could be provided between these houses and the college to maximise access.
VIDEO links could also be used to broadcast things like Co. Council meetings, or church services there by enabling more of the community to participate.