Helping provide independence with the Irish Wheelchair Association
The public transportation system in Ireland currently has limited fully accessible public transportation and taxi services. Due to this, the Irish Wheelchair Association’s (IWA) nationwide fleet of accessible buses is vital to many Irish communities.
Building community and enabling reliable mobility for the disabled
In early 2018, the IWA received an award from the Microsoft Community Empowerment Fund. The funds were used to provide a new bus which transports the physically disabled in Lucan and the surrounding community. Prior to this funding, the newest bus in IWA’s fleet was nine years old. A new bus provides peace of mind that there won’t be immediate heating or mechanical issues, which is important since these buses run continuously. The buying of the bus and its conversion for IWA’s use was done locally, and several small businesses were used for the refurbishing and painting.
According to IWA Service Coordinator, Ciaran McLoughlin, “IWA’s fleet of accessible buses are one of our most critical assets. The increased demand on our bus fleet alongside aging vehicles means replacing and regenerating our transport fleet is an area of increasing challenge and focus. IWA buses can be seen in every corner of the country, transporting our members. On the road 24/7, whether transporting young athletes to training, older members on a shopping outing, or young friends heading to a concert, in many cases the IWA bus is a lifeline without which people would be isolated and confined to their homes.” Having access to transportation is key for people living with physical disabilities to experience true independence.
IWA has been providing services to people with limited mobility since 1960. What started as a small group of wheelchair users meeting in a room in Mater Hospital, has grown into the nationwide network of over 20,000 members supported by a dedicated team of over 2,000 staff and another 2,000 volunteers. They provide training to private companies, government departments, and county councils as well as voluntary organizations. Their wide range of services promotes quality of life for people with disabilities in Ireland. From their involvement in the Paralympics to the day-to-day running of the IWA, this charity touches nearly every wheelchair-bound person in the country.
Identifying future projects
This project was promoted via large signage on the bus stating Microsoft’s support, as well as a handing-over ceremony that included Microsoft and the press. Noelle Walsh-Elwell, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft Cloud Operations and Innovation, was happy to attend on behalf of Microsoft. She stated, “At Microsoft, we are committed to helping every person and organization across the world achieve more. In living out our mission, we’re delighted to support the Irish Wheelchair Association by purchasing a new accessible bus that will enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities in the Dublin area. By providing inclusive mobility options, the IWA can achieve the full inclusion and integration of those with disabilities in our society.”
The IWA will also be working with other clubs like the Men’s Shed, thereby gaining additional attention. With additional funding, additional transportation is a possibility. The IWA is considering renting out the bus to the Men’s Shed, allowing for flexibility with the bus to benefit others in the community. The IWA will continue to look for synergies with additional local groups using the IWA buses to help connect the community and further improve the quality of life for those in the Dublin area.