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No wheelchair fitting clinics in County Cork due to HSE cutbacks, says activist Joanne O’Riordan


Journalist Joanne O'Riordan

Journalist Joanne O'Riordan

Gianni Infantino, FIFA Secretary General. Photo: Nick Potts (PA)

Gianni Infantino, FIFA Secretary General. Photo: Nick Potts (PA)


Journalist Joanne O'Riordan


THE HSE has cancelled seating clinics for wheelchair users in County Cork due to cutbacks, a leading disability activist and prominent journalist has said.

Millstreet disability campaigner and journalist Joanne O’Riordan has disclosed in an article published at the weekend that a seating clinic appointment she had to fit a new wheelchair had been cancelled and such appointments were no longer available in County Cork due to HSE cutbacks.

In the course of a response to FIFA secretary general Gianni Infantino’s speech at a press conference prior to the opening of the World Cup in Qatar, an address in which he compared himself to someone who was disabled, the Millstreet woman invited him to travel a mile in her wheelchair, the wheelchair of someone who was actually disabled.

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“I feel annoyed because the day before you identified with my own struggle, I was informed when I picked up my new wheelchair that, due to HSE cutbacks, I no longer have a seating clinic in my home county,” Joanne wrote.

“I, along with countless other people with disabilities, now have to travel and battle with each other for appointments.

“You might have heard of the six-chair challenge on The X Factor.

“This six-chair challenge, however, boils down to which person with a disability has the worst experience in a wheelchair they’ll need 24/7.”

A response has been sought from the HSE regarding Ms. O’Riordan’s disclosure that seating clinics for wheelchair users are no longer available in County Cork due to cutbacks. No response was forthcoming at the time of going to press.

In a hard hitting response to the FIFA chief’s press conference address, Joanne expressed her frustation at the numerous obstacles she has to overcome on a constant basis, including having to notify sportsgrounds more than a week in advance if she intends to attend a fixture or sports event.

“I feel upset because every time I choose to spontaneously go out and attend a football match with my father, we’re told by gardaí, security and sporting administrators that for a person to attend a game with a disability, we need to plan at least a week in advance.

“I’m sure, Gianni, when you turn up, a red carpet is rolled out, and nobody dares to question your existence.

“I feel sad because I have been robbed of living a normal life because, unfortunately, while I’m the one who has to identify as disabled, I’m actually more disabled as the environment around me and those in charge forget daily that I exist.

“I feel exhausted because whenever I wake up, I know somebody, somewhere, is ready to tell me, ‘no, you can’t do that’ or ‘we just can’t do that’. I’m not talking about a week’s holiday in Ibiza. I’m literally talking about basic access to buildings or public transport. Did you know, Gianni, if I spontaneously decided to hop on the train to visit friends in Dublin, a ramp to get on said train isn’t guaranteed unless I have informed someone in advance.”

She also expressed her fear about the plight she would face when her loved ones passed away and she would be left having to cope with the lack of infrastructure around care packages for disabled people.