NUI Galway Research Project Celebrates the Lived Experience of Disabled People

Oct 22 2018 Posted: 09:43 IST

NUI Galway’s Centre for Disability Law and Policy project, The Voices of Individuals: Collectively Exploring Self-determination (VOICES), celebrates its completion and the launch of its edited collection with an exhibition in the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission from 22-24 October.  

Participants from eleven countries and five different continents worked together to co-author a chapter of an edited collection entitled, ‘Global Perspectives on Legal Capacity Reform: Our Voices, Our Stories’. The edited collection will be launched by Rosaleen McDonagh in the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission on Wednesday, 24 October at 6pm.

Professor Eilionóir Flynn, Principal Investigator on the VOICES Project and Director of the Centre for Disability Law and Policy at NUI Galway, said: “By publishing this edited collection, VOICES demonstrates that it is no longer acceptable for the law to silence disabled people and deny their personhood – and that those who have experienced rights violations are best placed to imagine better and design a more equal, just and compassionate world.”

In the book Helen Rochford Brennan, an Irish dementia advocate, shared her experience of travelling and the lack of support available to people with dementia in airports and other settings. She said: “When I arrive at an airport, most of the time there is a wheelchair waiting for me and I have to explain that I don’t need the chair, but I do need someone with me. I have to explain that I can walk but that my anxiety is heightened and my cognitive ability to navigate a large airport is limited. I have to say, ‘Look I have Alzheimer’s’. You feel like pulling out your dementia card. I had a business card made up that says on the back ‘I have Alzheimer’s disease. Please be patient with me’.”

Claire Hendrick is one of the few people in Ireland to be discharged from the Ward of Court system. In her chapter Claire reflects on her experience: “Now that I look back, wardship is a disgrace. It is like mental torture. I was a prisoner. People playing games with you every day. They take away your power, your power to make your own decisions. Living independently now with the support of my aunt and cousin is the best way for me. I would have preferred this all along and would have chosen this if I was offered it by the solicitor instead of being made a Ward. I’m now treated like a human being.”

Dermot Lowndes is a self-advocate from Dublin. In his chapter, Dermot shared his experience of getting legal advice and making decisions regarding inheritance after his mother’s death. He said: “Do you know, when you are a working-class person the law is very complicated and for person with a disability it is very complicated as well. There is no legal advice for a person, or no private solicitor that can come and say, well, I’ll do this for the person with a disability. Because they think, because you have the disability, that you don’t understand the law because you have a disability.”

The VOICES project is funded by a European Research Council Starting Grant, awarded to Professor Eilionóir Flynn, the youngest person to ever receive such an award.
Further information is available at or by contacting Clíona on or 091 494272.


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