Thursday 19 September 2019

All disabilities aren't visible

Paul Deering

Local woman Geraldine Lynch has been named the county's Local Hero by Sligo Retail Park for her work in championing the plight of people with invisible disabilities.

Geraldine, whose mission is to eliminate stigma and discrimination for those with invisible disabilities, topped the search for Sligo's most deserving community worker.

Sligo Retail Park's asset manager Sigma Retail Partners launched the Local Heroes competition as part of their 2019 'Do Well by Doing Good' corporate responsibility programme.

And Geraldine was adjudged the most deserving of the award for her campaign at Ireland West Airport, Knock, to ensure accessible toilet signage highlighting that not every disability is visible.

The news signs have been put in place at the airport while she has also been in discussions with local banks who have also come on board to back her campaign.

"Not all disabilities are visible, it's as simple as that and I hope to get this message across to as many people as I can," Geraldine told The Sligo Champion.

She has now received a prize of €1,000 from Sligo Retail Park towards her work.

A brain haemorrhage victim, Geraldine campaigns for awareness around those with disabilities that cannot be seen.

"People with invisible disabilities have faced stigma and discrimination when using accessible toilets because others perceive them to look well and therefore not entitled to use these facilities," said Geraldine.

"For these people, the fear of being confronted for using an accessible toilet in public can be a major cause of anxiety, particularly when travelling.

"I started the project because I had a brain haemorrhage myself which leaves me with an invisible disability.

"So, I wanted to create an awareness around people like me and have lots more work to do to improve life for people with invisible disabilities."

It was in September 2004 that Geraldine, a a native of Ballaghaderreen but who has been living in Sligo for the past 30 years suffered her brain haemorrhage.

"As a result, I now have a shunt in my brains that drains away fluid," she says.

And, it's the kind of disability that is clearly not visible to the public whom she feels needs to become more educated about such matters.

According to Sigma's Paddy O'Connor, asset manager at Sligo, "Geraldine is a most deserving winner and we are delighted to back her wonderful work."

Sligo Champion