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Rights of People with Disabilities

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 13 July 2022

Wednesday, 13 July 2022

Ceisteanna (209)

Holly Cairns

Ceist:

209. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his views on providing fully accessible changing places and toilet facilities open to the public in all buildings which his Department owns and public bodies and agencies under his remit to offer people with disabilities and carers a network of equipped spaces to take care of personal hygiene, in safety and comfort. [38724/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The Office of Public Works (OPW) has representation on the National Disability Strategy Implementation Steering Committee since 2017. Action 32 of the National Disability and Inclusion Strategy 2017-2021 required that service providers actively engage with disabled people and their representatives in the planning, design, delivery and evaluation of public services. In 2019, to further engage in monitoring of the effectiveness of legislation around building access, under Section 25 of the Disability Act 2005, OPW and the NDA published An Operational Review of the Effectiveness of Section 25 of the Disability Act 2005 following focused user-group /stakeholder engagement. In this instance the OPW collaborated closely with the National Disability Authority. At present, and mainly as a result of Covid 19, the OPW does not have any such consultative committees in train.

In most instances, all new works are required to apply for a Disability Access Certificate (DAC). Historical buildings, protected structures and heritage visitor sites have some dispensations, depending on the impact of alterations on the historic fabric, attendant grounds, planning restrictions, archaearchaeology or the setting or all of the above. Often in these situations, modern facilities are provided in separate purpose-built temporary or permanent accommodation. This is usually subject to a suite of statutory obligations and to consents if it relates to a national monument. In any case, the Office of Public Works strives to comply with Disability Access Certificate (DAC) requirements in both modern and historical buildings within the State’s portfolio. With regard to modern buildings, built before the advent of DAC's, OPW have a policy and ongoing programme to update those buildings to modern compliance standards, as a high priority, for which there is a dedicated Universal Access Budget.

All new or significant upgrades to existing OPW owned or leased civil service office accommodation, completed since the advent of DACs, would have gone through a regulatory DAC process or equivalent. This means that the staff and visitors to these buildings have access to universal access facilities in compliance with the Technical Guidance Documents of the Building Regulations 1997-2010.

Due to the nature of its role, my Department and the Office of Government Procurement, which is also part of my Department, currently have no office locations that provide such facilities to the general public.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) also does not have public offices open to the public for this purpose but the Office manages a number of buildings and heritage sites around the country to which the public has access. Most of these are open, albeit subject to public health restrictions, and further information can be found on the OPW website.

With the exception of the Office of the Ombudsman, all other bodies under the aegis of my Department would not, under normal circumstances, be open to the public to access these facilities. I have been advised that the office of the Office of the Ombudsman has fully accessible changing places and toilet facilities which are open to the public.

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