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Council marks International Day of People with Disabilities

Council Chief Executive Anne Donaghy OBE with her daughter Andrea

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council is reminding citizens that not all disabilities are visible this International Day of People with Disabilities (3 December).

That’s the theme for this year’s annual celebration of people with disabilities which focuses on spreading awareness and understanding of disabilities that are not immediately apparent.

This can include such things as mental illness, chronic pain or fatigue, sight or hearing impairments, diabetes, brain injuries, neurological disorders, learning differences and cognitive dysfunctions.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Peter Johnston says it’s important to celebrate days like this, “This year has been harder than most for many, but we shouldn’t forget to take time and celebrate the fantastic people of every ability across our borough. We work with many community groups, schools, health providers and charities throughout the year and today is a day to celebrate the hard work they continue to do.

“Not every disability can be seen and that is something we all need to remember. Council continues to work to make facilities across Mid and East Antrim more inclusive. Play Parks, changing places, toilet facilities and accessibility are all constantly being upgraded and developed as we create a better future for everyone in our borough.”

Council’s Chief Executive Anne Donaghy OBE, Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Councillor Peter Johnston and Councillor Beth Adger MBE

According to the WHO World Report on Disability more than 1 billion people are living with disability. Another 69 million individuals are estimated to sustain Traumatic Brain Injuries each year worldwide, while one in 160 children are identified as on the autism spectrum.

These are just some examples of the millions of people currently living with a disability that is not immediately apparent, and a reminder of the importance of removing barriers for all people living with disability, both visible and invisible.

Councillor Beth Adger MBE is Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Disability Champion, “1 in 5 people in Northern Ireland have a disability. That’s almost every household being affected day in and day out. We can often take for granted the simple things like counting change, going to the toilet, being able to go where you want, when you want for the day without worrying if there are facilities there that you can use. I want that to change. It is so important that we continue to improve our attitudes to disability as well as our provisions of service across Mid and East Antrim.

“As a council we will always still have work to do but I’m proud that we have earmarked the creation of Changing Places - benches, hoists and space for two carers – in Ballymena, Larne and Carrickfergus, increased disability access at Greenisland Community Centre, installed hoists at Glenarm Marina, improved interactive signage at tourism sites, and staff training in Dementia and Autism services.

“We want every person to be able to enjoy living or visiting our borough, and make it as stress free as possible for individuals and their families who have enough to deal with. We will continue to work to make Mid and East Antrim accessible for all, and I urge you to get involved where you can in your local communities this International Day of People with Disabilities.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, isolation, disrupted routines and diminished services have greatly impacted the lives and mental well-being of people with disabilities right around the world.

Spreading awareness of invisible disabilities and the impact of the pandemic on mental health, is crucial as the world continues to fight against the virus.

Council’s Chief Executive Anne Donaghy OBE is also Chair of the SOLACE NI Equality and Diversity Group, “Local councils must be the leaders of a more inclusive society. We are excited to focus our efforts on making a real difference for people living with a disability in our borough. As a mother of a daughter with Down’s Syndrome I have first-hand experience of what life can be like for people growing up in this world, and I want to make it better.

“Public sector service provision needs to be more flexible, as a one-size fits all approach doesn’t work. Council continues to work on its Disability Action Plan which outlines our commitment to the promotion of equal opportunity for people of all abilities. Through the action plan, we want to help foster a more welcoming and outward-looking society not just in Mid and East Antrim, but Northern Ireland as a whole.”