More work is needed to link Ireland’s ethnic and disability communities
2017-08-15 -

By Natalie Kayton

A recent seminar on disability and ethnic minorities’ experience of disability in Dublin was a disappointing reminder of marginalised communities’ lack of representation in Ireland.


Christine Linehan, associate professor and director of the UCD Centre for Disability Studies, which hosted the event on 28 July, lamented that “despite our networks, we have to admit we failed to get people with [a] racial or ethnic background to come.”


Just one of the 11 speakers was from the immigrant background at an event that struggled to achieve involvement from either ethnic communities or those with disabilities, despite its theme.


Emmanuel NjumeSone, an immigrant from Cameroon in west Africa who represented migrant health NGO Cairde, touched on the lack of discussion on disabilities in ethnic communities because of the stigma of vulnerability. 


“In Africa, a disability is a taboo,” he said. “Coming here [to Ireland] people from Africa have carried the taboo.”


NjumeSone acknowledged that there is a disconnect between ethnic communities and the support network for people with disabilities in Ireland. 


As an individual, he said he hopes to learn more about how disabilities can affect Ireland’s immigrant population.


One problem raised on the day was the notion of ethnic children concealing their disability for fear of being seen in a negative light. However, Linehan pointed out that visibility and acceptance of disability is often “your passport to services”.


Ultimately, both ethnic minorities and those with disabilities are marginalised by Irish society and have been “swept under the rug”, she added.

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