Removing Barriers with the Disability Participation & Awareness Fund

27th November 2023

Posted In: Be In The Frame

20 Innovative organisations across the country providing vital community initiatives for people with disabilities will be awarded under a €3 million Rethink Ireland fund, it was announced recently. The Disability Participation and Awareness Fund will support twenty projects across four key strands: enabling participation of people with Down Syndrome in their communities; supporting social enterprise driven employment for people with disabilities; increasing access to arts and culture; and fostering participation in sports and outdoor recreation as well as the promotion of accessible shared spaces.

The Rethink Ireland Fund, in partnership with the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, will address the urgent needs of people with disabilities, breaking down barriers that they face across a multitude of areas, supporting tangible additions to existing community organisations.

Among the 20 non-profit organisations that will receive funding are Together Academy, which supports young adults with Down Syndrome with certified training, work experience and employment opportunities; the Notes & Signs project by Music & Health Ireland, for equity of access to live music performances and learning opportunities in the d/Deaf community; and the Embers project by Active Connections, engaging people living with a disability or neurodiverse diagnoses, safely in the outdoors.

Anne Rabbitte TD, Minister of State with special responsibility for Disability at the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, commented:

“For a long time, disability has been viewed purely as a ‘health’ issue, when in fact this is an equality issue.

When I sought to establish the Disability Participation and Awareness Fund, I wanted to develop a support mechanism for the wonderful initiatives that I knew were happening around the country to support people with disabilities to have equal access in their communities. I knew there were exciting programmes there to uncover and these 20 diverse projects prove that. The awardees are focussed on equal access to things like the arts, culture, and outdoor recreation – things that most of us take for granted – and I know we’ll see amazing results and tangible change delivered.”

Deirdre Mortell, CEO, Rethink Ireland said: “I am delighted to announce that 20 non-profit organisations will be funded to provide support to people with disabilities in communities across Ireland.

This increase in support has been targeted at projects which will build skills and remove barriers for people with disabilities, expanding their ability to take part in their communities.

I am looking forward to seeing what impact these projects will have on the lives of so many.”

Non-profit organisations awarded under the fund include:

•Together Academy – providing a core training programme in Employability Skills with a Culinary element, complemented by practical experience in the Together Café and work placements with partner organisations. People with Down syndrome face significant barriers to social inclusion due to the lack of access to meaningful paid employment. Only 6% are in paid employment in Ireland, often in limited roles. The root cause of this is the lack of relevant and adapted training and employment supports that suit their learning profile and needs.

•Notes & Signs – Music & Health Ireland  aims to create more opportunities and resources for d/Deaf audiences, musicians, interpreters and educators to engage with music in a meaningful and equitable way by delivering workshops for a Dublin Deaf School to introduce music appreciation, music-making and interpretation at Primary and Secondary Level; developing a Continued Professional Development (CPD) programme in performance interpretation; and the delivery of a family music concert. The d/Deaf community experiences a lack of access and inclusion of live music and music education with projects allowing the possibility of “hearing voices that were never heard”.

•Embers Project – Active Connections – engages people living with a disability or neurodiverse diagnoses, safely in the outdoors. Through the programmes offered, individuals with multiple diagnoses of disability are catered for and their complex needs addressed to help foster self-confidence and self-esteem through positive, safe engagement in outdoor activities. An internal trainee management programme will equip managers to facilitate the expansion of support services and maintain a high standard in their delivery. This expansion includes 4 existing locations in terms of programmes available, and the development of new services in 3 locations – Wicklow, Kildare and Cork.

Pictured at the launch of Rethink Ireland’s Disability Participation and Awareness Fund recently are (l-r) Ciara Donohoe and Sam Murphy, Staff at Happy Out x Together Academy in Dún Laoghaire, and Deirdre Mortell, CEO, Rethink Ireland.