WHEELCHAIR user Derek Spaight is on a mission to save businesses money and make organisations more aware of what people with mobility issues need.
Derek, who has cerebral palsy, told the Limerick Post that a wheelchair can become a cloak of invisibility.
“Many times I’ve gone out for something to eat with my personal assistant (PA) or friends and the waiter will come and ask the other person at the table if everything is all right?
“I might be the one paying for the meal, if I’m with my PA, he might not even be eating, but they ask everyone else and ignore me,” said Derek.
He is offering himself as a speaker on issues of disability and giving advice about how local authorities, business concerns and community development groups can be aware of the constraints and needs involved.
He is also happy to give talks in schools to raise awareness of disability issues.
Derek, who lives in Ballina/Killaloe says that business people often make uninformed decisions about providing disabled facilities and with the best will in the world, get it wrong.
Visiting a business premises in Limerick which had just undergone reconstruction and had installed new disabled toilet facilities, Derek tried to use the loo.
“The door wouldn’t close. I called the manager who got very upset. He was saying it was going to cost thousands to fix. I told him, he just needed to hang the door from the other side. Sometimes, the answer is very simple.”
Even councils get it wrong, he said. “A lot of places in towns that provide disabled parking spaces don’t have any dip that a wheelchair can use to get on to the footpath. You have to go on the road until you find a way up which is very dangerous.”
Derek’s services as a speaker are free, but he asks for an amount to cover his expenses. Anyone interested in having him speak to a group or meeting can contact him on 083 0976680.