5 lessons learned from Make Way Day 2021

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Make Way Day pointed out flaws in accessibility

Image via Make Way Day

Make Way Day took place on Friday, September 24th, and it highlighted many of the gaps in accessibility in Ireland. For those of us who are non-disabled, we may not see the issue in a local sandwich board on the footpath. An awkwardly parked car is a nuisance but nothing too troubling. The out-of-service lift just adds to your step count for the day. But for the thousands of disabled or impaired people in our country, these occurrences are hugely disruptive. 

Make Way Day began five years ago, and the annual event encourages people to spotlight different issues in Irish towns. Here are five lessons to be learned off the back of Make Way Day, and some areas Ireland needs to do better on. 

Parked cars

Parking in many towns across the country is a nightmare. It’s busy, it’s expensive, or it seems hard to come by. But some drivers opt to park their cars inappropriately, without thinking about other road or path users. When a car is parked on the footpath, those with use of their legs can walk around it, but it makes the path impassible for a wheelchair user. 

Sandwich boards

Having a sandwich board outside a restaurant or café signals to those outside that a good meal (or a good deal) awaits them inside. While an excellent form of advertising, it can wreak havoc for path users with impairments. Anybody who is visually impaired may have a difficult time navigating around the board. Additionally, the placement of boards on access zones makes entering very difficult for anyone in a wheelchair. 

Hiking trails

Getting outdoors and appreciating nature is one of the many benefits of living in Ireland. We have a wide array of trails and hikes all over the country, at various levels of difficulty. But one of the issues facing many wheelchair users is the terrain underfoot. As @TheStruggleisWheel has found on his adventures, the rough rocky terrain makes trips with his non-disabled partner very difficult. 

Lift access 

In train stations all over Ireland, the lift may be the only way a wheelchair user has access to the train platform. Yet many stations have lifts that are out of order or in maintenance for long periods of time. In 2019, disability activists accused Irish Rail of not doing enough to ensure equal access. There have been plans to renovate lifts across all stations and to add over 28 new lifts. 

Outdoor dining

Outdoor dining proved to be a lifeline for many throughout the summer and the last year of the pandemic. And while the new dining set-up meant restaurants remained open, they caused significant obstructions for anyone in a wheelchair or with a cane. Ireland’s cities aren’t quite set up for outdoor dining like many of their mainland European counterparts. Cutting off part or all of the footpath is a huge setback for accessibility. 

Did you know? 

The bumpy slabs of pavement before a zebra crossing or bike lane are to assist and warn the vision impaired. The tactile paving provides a warning to anyone who is vision impaired about the presence of a possible hazard or a change in the street layout. 

Times-a changing

In the November issue of the magazine in 2020, we took a look at the obstacles facing Irish disabled people. Wheelchair user and member of the Traveller community, Dr. Rosaleen McDonagh noted that the preservation of old buildings “by way of denying access to wheelchair users holds a very narrow view of what it means to be human.” Make Way Day spotlights a similar idea. If we create our outdoor spaces with only non-disabled bodies in mind, we are catering to a narrow sect of society. 

Thankfully, despite the obstacles highlighted by Make Way Day, there are some positive changes happening around the country. In our current issue on shelves now, check out some of the accessible fashion options, and how the industry is adapting to make clothing ranges as inclusive as possible. ‘Architects of Style’ looks at disability-embracing ranges that make fashion accessible for all. 

The Arrow cuff, approximately €280.36

Self-Dress Womens Cotton Shirt, €55