‘Same but Different’: Living in the Community with an Intellectual Disability. Social Policy and the Rights of a Person with an Intellectual Disability Living in Ireland.

Author(s): Jacintha Flynn

Department: University College Cork and Cope Foundation

Keywords: Independent Living, Equality of Rights, Research Methodologies, Social Work and Research

(31 Jul 2009)
This study presents, in their own words, the lives of twelve adults living in the community with an intellectual disability. It aims to assess how social policy expressed through the disability services, social services, education and employment services support their right to the same opportunities as the non-disabled population. This qualitative piece of research was completed using semi-structured questionnaires and a focus group. Participatory values and principles underpin the study. The developments occurring within social policy in Ireland are outlined regarding the mainstreaming of training and employment supports, the development of a National Intellectual Database, the proposed Disability Act and the Education for Persons with Disabilities Bill 2003; raising the question as to their relevance to the study group. The models of disability, which have nationally and internationally influenced attitudes and services, are critiqued. Research methods used within the disability community are critiqued. The role of social workers and the use of research within the equal rights paradigm are explored.
The findings outline how the study’s participants experience discrimination in access to housing, education, employment and health services. They are reliant on state welfare provisions and are employed in low skilled, poorly paid, less secure jobs. They have had no input into the planning of services or the compiling of data base information. They identify themselves as being ‘different’ within the community with an acceptance of engaging with welfare and disability agencies because of this labelling. They have an awareness of their needs and ability to express them but not the opportunity to fulfil them.

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