Everybody can do something to make the world more welcoming
Selina Bonnie is South Dublin County Council’s Disability Liaison, Access and Equality Officer

Everybody can do something to make the world more welcoming

“EVERYBODY can do something to make the world a more accessible and welcoming place,” according to Selina Bonnie, the council’s Disability Liaison, Access and Equality Officer.

Before coming to work with South Dublin County Council more than 20 years ago, Selina was based in the NGO sector as an activist for disabled people’s rights.

“I’ve always believed that lobbying and campaigning is important but at some stage you have to become the change maker,” Selina told The Echo.

“I was delighted to get the opportunity to work with South Dublin County Council… and to become a change maker with lived experience.

“I have a lived experience as a wheelchair user but I’m conscious to always bring in the lived experiences of people with other impairments.

“For example, we have quite a good relationship with the deaf community in the county and we’re lucky to have this rapport, we can learn from their experiences.”

Selina spoke with The Echo as the county celebrates National Accessibility Week 2021, which, led by local authorities nationwide, takes place until Monday, December 6.

The council is ‘celebrating accessible South Dublin County’ through a series of events and activities that encourages everyone to focus on accessibility and universal design.

“National Accessibility Week is an opportunity to promote an understanding of accessibility and what’s possible, and to let people known what [accessible facilities and services are in the county],” Selina said.

Over the last two years, the council has managed to continue making progress across the county in relation to accessibility.

During lockdown, for example, the council opened new fully accessible, universal design toilet facilities in County Hall, Tallaght, and the new library in North Clondalkin.

The council has also been actively promoting the Jam Card, with the local authority becoming Jam Card Friendly in recent months.

Created by NOW Group, a social enterprise that supports people with learning difficulties and autism into jobs, Jam Card allows people with a communication barrier to easily tell others they need ‘just a minute’.

“Last October, South Dublin County Council became Jam Card Friendly, with staff completing Jam Card training,” Selina said.

“This is a discreet way of showing a customer service person you need a minute.

“The customer service person knows you need a little bit more time to communicate.

“The wonderful thing about Jam Card is that it was an idea from people with lived experience, once again we are learning and listening to people with lived experience.

“Ultimately what we would love here in South Dublin County Council is to have a Jam Card Friendly County.”

Staff across libraries, cultural and leisure facilities in the county are currently completing Jam Card training.

Everybody living and working in South Dublin County is encouraged to engage with a packed schedule of events, many of which are being hosted online or in local libraries.

“One of the things I’m quite proud of [in this year’s Accessibility Week schedule] is the significant number of activities and events that are autism-friendly and sensory-friendly,” Selina said.

“We can forget about those with hidden disabilities.”

Alongside highlighting and promoting the accessibility of local facilities and services, the week also encourages wider society to be more inclusive of the varied access needs of people of all ages.

“It’s important to recognise that every person has the power to contribute to good accessibility, whether it’s when you’re parking or making sure your wheelie bin is not blocking the path,” Selina said.

“Everybody can do something to make the world a more accessible and welcoming place.”

Selina has encouraged anybody who has ideas on how accessibility can be improved in their community or county to touch base.

Email Selina at sbonnie@sdublincoco.ie or call 087 27089018.

Visit www.sdcc.ie (News section) for the local schedule of events for National Accessibility Week.

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