Maman Poulet | Clucking away crookedly through media, politics and life

Access is more than a ramp

March 6th, 2012 · 12 Comments · Disability

Luke Kelly Melia is 13 years old and in primary school in Cavan. Well he was in school until he got an assistance dog and the school refused to allow him bring it to school. I first read about Luke in January and had not heard anything since and thought the matter had been sorted. However I was informed today that he is still not allowed to bring the dog to school until there is a policy agreed and a consultation process is concluded so he is being home schooled. The school have had more than 8 weeks to get the policy written.

Luke’s dog (Aidan) is trained and provided by Dogs for the Disabled.

The dog gives Luke a lot of confidence when he walks. He doesn’t fall down as much. He’s written a letter to President Higgins about it. He and his family asked the Department and the Minister to help but they have not acted and said it is up to the school to decide if the dog can be permitted. (I’m sorry Luke, President Higgins can’t do much either but I’m sure someone is taking notice!!!)

There is no further response from the school on the matter and I’m finding it hard to understand what the problem is? The dog is trained to an international standard.

Is it children with allergies, a teacher with a phobia or a fear of a distraction? It’s fairly simple to say to all the children that the dog is working and not a toy and to leave him alone. Luke would have been trained to use him and the dog is trained to be obedient. Perhaps they think the dog is a fashion accessory and everyone will want to bring one to school. All this integration is grand till the disabled start looking for rights eh and wanting to express them? In fact the problem might be that people with disabilities don’t have automatic rights in Ireland and only 62% of people think that people with physical disabilities should attend the same schools as those without disabilities. (NDA 2012)

Given the growing number of children with disabilities using trained assistance dogs for mobility, safety and community integration one would hope (in vain) that all schools are developing policies on the matter. Guide dogs for people with visual impairments are permitted in buildings and services and indeed there are cases on the matter which have been heard by the Equality Tribunal.

I look forward to hearing more about what the problems with meeting Luke’s needs are. Or if there is more to the story. Actually I would not rather have to hear more or interfere with Luke’s privacy and just hear the matter is sorted.



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