UCD Centre for Disability Studies

UCD Centre for Disability Studies 2017 Event: Disability and Ethnic Minority

Fri, 11 August 17 14:13

The UCD Centre for Disability Studies celebrated its 21st birthday with a full day seminar on Disability and Ethnic Minority on Friday 28th July in the William Fry Theatre, UCD Sutherland School of Law. Throughout the day self-advocates, researchers, practitioners, policy advisors and service providers heard from a wide variety of speakers and delegates.  The conference was opened with a warm welcome to UCD by Associate Professor Christine Linehan, Director of the UCD Centre for Disability Studies and Prof Colin Scott, Principal of the College of Social Science and Law.

Laurence Bond, Director of the Human Rights and Equality Commission introduced our first session of the day. Dr Mary-Ann O’Donovan, Trinity College Dublin and Alison Ryan, University College Dublin spoke to the lack of visibility of people with disabilities from ethnic minorities within routine datasets and within the research literature. This invisibility raises issues regarding research and policy guidance on how best to support this population [view presentation 1].  Our second speaker, Dr PJ Boyle of the HSE Balseskin Refugee Reception Centre, provided a broad outline of the Centre’s work and called for ‘culturally competent’ support, defined as services which are open to the experiences, expectation, perceptions and realities of a variety of individuals and communities. [view presentation 2].

Our second session focused on individuals from the Irish Traveller Community who have disabilities. Professor Dorothy Watson from the Economic and Social Research Institute opened the session with a summary of her recently published report ‘A Social Portrait of Travellers in Ireland’ which illustrated the disparities in health and social outcomes for Irish Travellers when compared with the settled community [view presentation 3]. This presentation was followed by an interview with Rosaleen McDonagh from the Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre. Rosaleen described her lived experience of disability as a member of the Traveller Community. Rosaleen spoke powerfully of the assumptions by the medical profession regarding her disability, the stigma surrounding both disability and Traveller identity, and of her current research as a doctoral student in the disability studies field.  Dr Jennifer Van Aswegen, Disability Federation of Ireland closed this session with a reflection, highlighted the growing need to recognise the intersectionality of disability and ethnicity. Dorothy’s presentation can be accessed below.

Lunch in the Atrium of the Sutherland School of Law provided a welcome opportunity for delegates to network and reflect on the morning’s proceedings.  Session three, focusing on New Communities, was opened by Colin Lenihan from the Immigration Council of Ireland. Colin spoke to the vulnerability of individuals seeking a new life in Ireland, a position which may become further challenged by disability. Emmanuel NjumeSone from Cairde delivered the first presentation in this session illustrating Cairde’s experiences of the challenges faced by individuals from New Communities who are in need of health and social supports [view presentation 4].  Daniela Jurj, New Communities Partnership, delivered the second presentation in this session focusing on the high numbers of children from New Communities coming into care and the importance of ‘cultural awareness’ training for staff supporting these families [view presentation 5].  Paddy Connolly of Inclusion Ireland concluded the session with a reflection questioning the appropriateness of the current allocation of resources within the disability programme. Emmanuel and Daniela’s presentations are presented below.

Our final session was an hour-long questions and answers session chaired by Christy Lynch of KARE. This lively session addressed a number of issues. A prominent theme was the invisibility of individuals with disabilities from ethnic minorities; delegates spoke of a reluctance by individuals to self-report, combined with a reluctance by professionals to record both ethnicity and disability, which contributed to this invisibility. Delegates called for greater resources to challenge racism, encourage self-identity and support the recruitment of individuals from ethnic minorities within the disability field. These actions could collectively foster a level of trust that delegates felt was notably absent.   Other themes included the need for greater collaboration between academia, advocates and services; the need for action now to meet not only the needs of those currently requiring support, but also the likely growing proportion in the future; and the potential for personal budgets to offer real choice and control to individuals with disabilities to commission their own supports. The session concluded with an agreement that a consortium now be established to harness the energy within the room for further collaboration. Paddy Connolly of Inclusion Ireland kindly agreed to host a follow up meeting and delegates were invited to sign a listing of interested parties if they wished to attend.  The conference was closed by Associate Professor Christine Linehan who thanked speakers, delegates, UCD colleagues and all involved for their support and looked forward to the follow-up meeting.

Photo: Christy Lynch, CEO KARE; Dr Mary-Ann O’Donovan, Assistant Professor, Trinity College Dublin; Alison Ryan, UCD Centre for Disability Studies; Prof Colin Scott, Principal UCD College of Social Science and Law; Dr Grainne Collins, Senior Research Officer, National Disability Authority; Dr Christine Linehan, Associate Professor & Director UCD Centre for Disability Studies; Laurence Bond, Director Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission; Dr PJ Boyle, HSE Balseskin Refugee Reception Centre