Sean O’Kelly was travelling in a wheelchair by DART from Dalkey to Clontarf earlier this year for a driving lesson when there was no one there to assist him off the train when he arrived and the station’s lift was out of service.
“It was just the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Sean, from Dalkey, told Independent.ie.
When a wheelchair user wants to travel with Irish Rail, they are advised to provide at least 24 hours notice that they plan to travel to ensure that someone is there to help them on and off. Bus Eireann issue similar advice to wheelchair users.
“The driver had to let me off,” he said.
“In come cases, passengers have brought me off. Drivers have refused in the past. It’s disgraceful,” he said.
Sean (23) then went on to exit the station, but the elevator was broken.
“I rang Pearse Station and they sent someone from Killester to help me off.”
However, there’s not always someone around to help, says Sean.
“There have been many situations where I’ve been stuck. We, as wheelchair users, should be able to go where we want, when we want,” he said.
“Having to provide 24 hours notice is discrimination.”
“I’m 23 years old. I should be able to go out and have fun spontaneously. Every move from my house has to be planned.”
In response to the situation, Sean launched a campaign – A Day in my Wheels.
“I’m challenging the public and politicians to spend a day in my wheels. I’m challenging Minister for Disability Finian McGrath, Minister for Health Simon Harris and all local councillors to take on my challenge.”
Sean wants people to experience the challenges that society brings that he faces each day.
“We are a minority in this country. We are pushed aside, almost forgotten,” he said of his feelings about the wheelchair community in Ireland.
Sean is campaigning through his Facebook page to encourage people to spend a day in a wheelchair and experience the difficulties he, and many other wheelchair users, face each day in an effort to improve the lives of the 40,000 wheelchair users in Ireland.
Follow Sean’s campaign here.