What is your career background? 


I joined South Dublin County Council as Social Inclusion Officer in early 2002. I had been an activist in the international disabled people’s movement for years before that, mainly working in disability equality, independent living and self-advocacy for disabled people.

 

Working in social inclusion in the council brought new challenges because it dealt with so many areas outside my previous experience. I was now dealing with issues relating to people from the nine grounds under the equality legislation rather than just one.

 

I am a woman, mixed race and a wheelchair user with lived experience of how vital accessibility and inclusion is, so I understand intersectionality and I was able to empathise with the diverse staff and public who use our services.

 

In 2006, I became the Disability Liaison, Access and Equality Officer with the council. I find this role very satisfying because when addressing issues related to accessibility, results can often be seen quite quickly. My work focusses not just on changing hearts and minds, it is more about ensuring that policies, facilities, work practices and services are designed and delivered in accessible and inclusive ways.

 

What does your role involve? 


There are several functions to my role. My work in disability and accessibility involves ensuring services provided by the council are universally accessible to the public. I also provide support for council staff who are disabled and ensure the working environment in the council is accessible and inclusive. Part of my role involves linking in with planners and architects on accessibility requirements for example. 

 

On the equality side, I work to promote equality and human rights. That could involve providing organisational support for our staff LGBTQ+ Network, proofing publications to ensure they adhere to literacy-friendly guidelines, and much more.  

 

My aim is always to encourage and empower my colleagues to take the initiative themselves to make sure accessibility and equality are embedded in all our work processes. I work with every grade and department as necessary to provide the knowledge and skills they need to do that. I also work at connecting staff with the people who have lived experience of accessibility and equality to ensure that they have access to appropriate information and resources from outside the local authority as well.

 

What are the most rewarding things about working for a local authority?


One of the most interesting things about working for a local authority is the engagement with the many different types of council services and disciplines that work here. I’ve learned about things I never thought I would need to know. For example, part of my role involves looking at building plans to make sure they are accessible. You also learn to speak the language of people with different specialisations to you – planners, engineers, architects, and so on – and help them make a difference in the way they work.

 

In the area of accessibility, I find it really rewarding and energising when I receive positive feedback regarding the accessibility that we are providing across in the county. For example, despite the pandemic, we managed to install two changing places facilities in the county and become the first JAM Card© friendly local authority in the State. It has been wonderful to see the positive reaction to these achievements.

 

Why should someone consider a career with their local authority?


Local authorities are at the heart of the services everyone needs and there is a real opportunity to influence how those services are delivered. I worked for years in the disabled peoples movement, campaigning and trying to achieve better accessibility and equality for disabled persons, and found it very rewarding but I felt I spent a lot of time lobbying the changemakers in society, whereas working for a local authority gave me the chance to become a changemaker.

 

I work with people across the council to help them understand how they can make a difference in terms of accessibility and equality in their work. Embedding that understanding in how we approach what we do benefits so many people in the community.