This morning I received a message from a friend of mine, who happens to be a disabled driver too, to let me know about the Disability Toll Exemption Scheme for drivers of exempted vehicles in Ireland. This became available in February 2020 and it replaced a very cumbersome scheme where you had to apply to get a special card from one of the many Toll Road operators in Ireland. It involved scanning tax certificates, vehicle registration certificates and possibly a photo too. Now it is a simple online application. Super!!
It isn’t super
But it is not super in all ways. At no stage were disabled drivers informed of this. No letter, e-mail or announcement in a newsletter from an organisation which supports people with disabilities. It had a very silent launch. The reason I learned about it was due to me having to travel, during the pandemic, for a medical appointment (which could have been conducted online). This appointment was in Cork and I had to use the Limerick Bypass. When I presented my Toll Exemption card at the booth, the person questioned my why I didn’t have my certificate on the windscreen?
I asked what certificate, and I was informed I could get it online. When I got home, it was one of the first things I did, after the three day recovery from the journey. When my friend experienced the same thing, I realised, none of of were informed. It is the disabled word of mouth system of information dissemination. This is wrong, and now I am writing this post, in the hope other disabled drivers learn about this cost saving scheme.
There is another way
We often look to the UK for an example of how to design our social system, but we have not looked at how they help disabled drivers. The UK understand how important mobility is, and how much of a challenge it is if you need a mobility scooter, wheelchair or other mobility device. Public transport doesn’t help most of the time. We need cars. We can get a reduced cost car, and have some support for fuel, but in the UK they give a weekly (I think) mobility grant, which can be used to buy a car.
This is a fantastic scheme as it helps us to remain independent for longer. Permitting us to contribute to society more. At the moment I am thinking about getting a new car. The one I have is too low, making getting out very difficult. Also, due to the low seat, my spasticity in my legs is quite bad at the end of a trip. My legs seize up. If I had a higher seating position, like in an SUV or van, the problem would reduce. However, because I am in receipt of a means tested state support (Disability Allowance) I will not be able to get a loan for a vehicle. I am sure I am not the only one in this situation.
We need change
I believe we need to completely overhaul the disability supports in Ireland. They are stuck in some sort of time bubble, firmly stuck in the past, meanwhile the world has advanced.