"It is shameful that in 2023 disabled people will continue to face such high levels of inequity: at home, school and work"

We continue our week long series marking International Women's Day on March 8. We asked Cork women what the theme 'Embrace Equity' means to them. More than 100 women responded to our call-out.
"It is shameful that in 2023 disabled people will continue to face such high levels of inequity: at home, school and work"

Edel O’Connell, Head of Communications at Rehab Group. 

Edel O’Connell, of Cork, is Head of Communications with disability organisation. Rehab Group

Rehab Group champions the rights of people with a disability to live a life of their choosing in their community. Rehab provides Care, Learning and Employability services in every county in Ireland. More than 13% of people in Ireland have a disability, which may be physical, sensory, mental, or psychic.

There are still many obstacles to integrating people with disabilities into society. People with disabilities often miss out on learning and educational opportunities - not because they lack ability but because an ableist system doesn’t give them the necessary tools.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2011) recognises the right of persons with disabilities to education; however, students with disabilities continue to face significant challenges in accessing third-level. Rehab Group’s Learning division, National Learning Network, embraces equity by taking a rights-based approach to education and training, prioritising equity of access for students with disabilities and those needing specialist support to access pathways to Further Education and training and Higher Education that meet their needs.

People with disabilities also experience multiple barriers to accessing and sustaining employment, including access and infrastructural obstacles, poverty traps, negative stereotypical perceptions, and limited progressive education opportunities.

In employment, many people with disabilities within working age are excluded from the labour market. Article 27 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities affirms the right of persons with disabilities to work equally with others. However, compared with other OECD countries, Ireland has one of the worst recorded employment rates for disabled persons. Of the almost 13.5% of our society that identifies as disabled, only 30-36% are in work. This statistic is particularly concerning, as employment equality is crucial to tackling marginalisation and social exclusion.

Furthermore, many of our transport systems and public buildings continue to be inaccessible or accessible only with difficulty to people with disabilities; as regards housing, suitably adapted or adaptable accommodation is in short supply and prohibitively expensive, while our welfare system provides only a minimum level of support, falling some way short of achieving the goal of integration.

The inaccessibility of transport prevents the people who use our services at Rehab Group from achieving their desired personal progression socially, educationally, or professionally. In addition, it causes significant anxiety as people miss out on attending their education and stifles their opportunities to enter employment. When holding down a job, socialising or going on holidays, just getting there can often be the most significant challenge.

It is shameful that in 2023 disabled people will continue to face such high levels of inequity: at home, school and work. 

At Rehab, we have the privilege of seeing disabled people being supported to make their own choices every day, be it living independently, getting a qualification education, or finding employment. Equality is about treating everyone the same, whereas embracing equity is about giving individuals what they need to succeed. So equal opportunity ensures that everyone has the same chance to succeed.

Tina Santos.
Tina Santos.

Tina Santos, Accounts Assistant

For me, equity means fairness and justice and is the quality of being fair. It is about getting access to the same opportunities with no barriers at all.

Jazz Glennon, Marketing Manager, The Flynn Hotel Collection

To me, equity means not needing an International Women’s Day! Although it is extremely important to highlight this day, it would be great to be in a position where we no longer need it. I’m extremely lucky to work somewhere that is inclusive and you are rewarded in work by the work you do rather than because of your gender. We currently have a 52/48 mix of women to men in managerial roles and the team is constantly working towards a 50/50 split.

Sinead Ryan a Food and Beverage Operations Manager at the Imperial Hotel.
Sinead Ryan a Food and Beverage Operations Manager at the Imperial Hotel.

Sinead Ryan, Food and Beverage Operations Manager at the Imperial Hotel

Equity, for me, means that no matter who you are or what age you are, you should be able to achieve the same goals as everyone else, and to be supportive and encouraging of any person who you believe can do more, no matter their age, sex or gender. It’s the strength they have inside that counts to get there

Fiona Walsh, CEO of Empower Presentation.
Fiona Walsh, CEO of Empower Presentation.

Fiona Walsh, CEO of Empower Presentations and a Microsoft certified PowerPoint trainer

Achieving equity for women is vital to promote gender equality. I believe it can be achieved by advocating for equal pay, improving access to education and healthcare, increasing women’s political representation, and empowering women and girls to take control of their lives.

As a business owner, I am a positive role model to all women. 

The support I need in my business may differ significantly from that of other female business owners. I actively support and mentor women on their journey to success regardless of the starting point.

Elizabeth O’Brien, Finance Business Partner in Cork County Council.

I have been employed by Cork County Council, since th completion of second level education in the 1980s.

What equity means to me is giving everyone what they need to be successful. For me, this meant the support of my employer as I furthered my studies, in UCC, Carlow IT and the Institute of Public Administration. This empowered me and enabled me to successfully compete in promotional competitions, and progress my career within the local authority.

Ciara O’Brien, People & Culture Manager at the Imperial Hotel, Cork

The word equity to me means that everybody has the same opportunity. When I recruit for our Imperial Family, equity is always on the forefront of my mind.

Hospitality traditionally would have a very diverse workforce and I see having members of our team from different backgrounds, ages, nationalities and gender only enriches our working environment.

We have 24 nationalities in the hotel and many internal committees, eg. Our Green Team that have cross-departmental members. This strengthen the bond between our departments and gives everyone a voice.

Kathryn Coughlan.
Kathryn Coughlan.

Kathryn Coughlan, Crawford Art Gallery

Equity, to me, means giving everyone equal access to a safe and dignified life. For some people, this means providing them with more protections and resources - in terms of access to education, welfare payments, housing, healthcare and workplace accommodations. It means that everyone should have whatever support they need to lead a fulfilling life, to be creative and to be happy - not simply surviving.

The need for equity for all marginalised people feels more urgent now, as anti-women, anti-trans and anti-migrant rhetoric spreads with alarming speed and dangerous consequences.

I work in the Crawford Art Gallery, our audiences include many vulnerable communities living in Cork, and I am proud to be surrounded by colleagues who believe we must work towards an equitable and safe future for all.

Purnima Chaudhry.
Purnima Chaudhry.

Purnima Chaudhry, Lecturer of Mathematics and Statistics, UCC and MTU

For me, equity means sharing the knowledge I have, to the best of my ability, to empower my students for their future.

Pratibha Patil, team manager in Capita, mum to two daughters, living in Cork since 2016

Equity means equal opportunity and equal accessibility.

Ciara Crossan, Wedding Dates.ie
Ciara Crossan, Wedding Dates.ie

Ciara Crossan, Founder & CEO of WeddingDates.ie, in business 15 years

I am an advocate for young entrepreneurship and in particular Women in Business. I am a proud single mum to nine-year-old twin boys and believe in the power of male allies to support progress towards gender equality.

I am an alumni of the Vital Voices Global Ambassadors Programme, the goal of which is to accelerate women’s leadership and economic empowerment throughout the world. I was named Network Cork Business Woman of the Year in 2019.

There is a difference between equality and equity. Equality is all about giving everyone the same resources, but it really only works if everyone is starting from the same place, which we know is not the case in our society.

Equity is about everyone having access to the same opportunities to succeed, and practically, that means that certain individuals from minority or disadvantaged groups may need different/additional supports in order to level the playing field.

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