Paralympic champion Ellen Keane says the recent discriminatory treatment of her Ireland teammate Martin Gordon underlines just how much ignorance disabled people still have to put up with in their daily lives.
Mr Gordon represented Ireland in tandem cycling in the Tokyo Paralympics in 2021 but revealed that he was refused entry at a Dublin restaurant because he was accompanied by his guide dog.
The uproar that followed will hopefully be a lesson for the service industry
Management said it had a “no dogs policy” and only offered the Sligo barrister a table outdoors.
“For that to happen to Martin was just so embarrassing. I can only imagine how he felt but that is the reality,” said the Paralympic swimmer who won gold in SB8 100m breaststroke in Tokyo and bronze in Rio in 2016.
“People still have an ignorance and naivety about disability. The uproar that followed will hopefully be a lesson for the service industry but this is something we still fight every day,” she said. “I sometimes get told I’m not disabled. That’s so insulting.
“People see ‘Paralympian’ and think the issues around disability don’t exist anymore because we’re strong athletes who can just get on with things. But we’re still disabled people. We still need to be accommodated and unfortunately those accommodations aren’t an automatic reaction, which is really sad.
Domestic abuse affects one in four women and one in two disabled women
“That’s why it’s so important for me to use my voice and profile,” she said, speaking at the launch of the Allianz Insurance and Women’s Aid campaign to raise €2.4m over the next three years to support victims of domestic abuse.
The rate of violence doubles for women with disabilities. “Domestic abuse affects one in four women and one in two disabled women, I didn’t even know that until recently,” Ms Keane said.
“The types of abuse that disabled women suffer aren’t just sexual and financial. It can be things as simple as taking away their mobility aid or their benefits. It’s also a lot harder for disabled women to speak up about it (domestic abuse) because when you go into a GP you always have your carer there with you.
“What Allianz is doing is just so powerful, helping Women’s Aid with this fundraiser to try to raise such a large sum to combat domestic abuse. It’s very important for me as a woman and an athlete, as someone who is perceived as a strong woman, to come on board with this.”
People are being asked to do the yoga ‘warrior’ pose for social media and donate on the #StandStrong platform on the new February bank holiday, on February 6.