UL research survey highlights lack of uniformity in wheelchair provision across Ireland

The results of a recent UL research survey of wheelchair users and their careers in Ireland will be presented today to Senator John Dolan (CEO, Disability Federation of Ireland) in Leinster House by Dr Rosie Gowran, Department of Clinical Therapies, University of Limerick, who is calling for a national review of wheelchair and seating provision services in Ireland.

Dr Rosie Gowran, Department of Clinical Therapies, University of Limerick

Of the 273 individuals who took the online survey, including parents of children, adults with spinal cord injury, progressive neurological conditions and other conditions such as acquired brain injury and stroke, 38% stated that their wheelchair did not meet their needs. The survey highlights a lack of uniformity in wheelchair provision across the country, with delays as each stage of the process, waiting for assessment, funding and delivery of the wheelchair, with only 17% receiving follow up within six months of receiving their new wheelchair.

The largest group responding to the survey were people of working age with spinal cord injury. Without an appropriate wheelchair, which can be obtained, maintained and repaired in the event of an emergency, people living with spinal cord injury for example may miss out on opportunities to reengage with life, access education and employment, which is of major concern, highlighted by Spinal injuries Ireland, impacting on health and wellbeing.

Speaking about the research results Dr Rosie Gowran said:

These results illustrate that many children, adults and older people who require a wheelchair are in a major position of inequality to access daily life, school, work and leisure, which most take for granted. While there is evidence of some improvement in assessment processes the entire system lacks uniformity. Loss of personal mobility without an appropriate wheelchair can affect growth and development; increase the risk of pressure ulcers and impact greatly on a person’s mental health

With approximately 40,000 people using wheelchairs in the Republic of Ireland, one in one hundred; no specific policies or guidelines in relation to the appropriate provision of wheelchairs and special seating, unlike other jurisdictions, despite the continual call for a national review of wheelchair services.

Following on from Dr Gowran’s address to a cross-party meeting at Leinster House in November 2014, highlighting the serious inadequacies of services for wheelchair users in Ireland, there has been very little dialogue at a HSE or government level. To address issues relating to accessing services, assessment and delivery processed, follow up, repair and emergency service and education, training and research. A policy platform needs to be established to address the short, medium and longer term issues required for sustainable wheelchair and seating provision infrastructures.

“Wheelchair provision is relevant to the whole of society, as any one of us could become a wheelchair user, these results are stark. Irish people would like to know that if they, their child, or parent needed a wheelchair that an appropriate chair would be provided and looked after in a timely and efficient manner to ensure people can live their lives as independently as possible”, said Dr Gowran.

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