As part of their Gaisce Silver Award six students from Hamilton High School, Bandon decided to do something different for their Community section. They got together and created ‘Access Bandon’, a research based report on how wheelchair friendly their local town of Bandon, Co. Cork was. Darragh Healy, who was one of the students says, “We wanted to discover how accessible Bandon is for people with disabilities, particularly wheelchair users.”
Each week the team would meet up, select a chairperson and delegate roles and jobs for the following weeks meeting. “Once the jobs were delegated it was really up to the individual to make sure they did their tasks for that week. Once all the information was gathered and shared then we could look at what we had to do for the following week.”
Through the course of their research the students acquired help from a local TD, canvassed and researched local businesses and one student even went as far as to take a wheelchair and travel around Bandon town. Darragh says, “The project as a whole completely changed my perspective of the town. I would never even have thought about disability access within Bandon, or Cork for that matter, before.
“It has really made me conscious to the fact of how little facilities there are for people with disabilities and it did open my eyes.” Overall the project found there were a number of challenges facing wheelchair users within Bandon town including, width of footpaths were too narrow, parking spaces in the main street were limited, some shops did not have the staff to facilitate someone with a wheelchair and some shop aisles did not have suitable access.
Since its publication the ‘Access Bandon’ report has been mentioned in Dáil Éireann and has been handed out to local businesses to assess its findings. Darragh goes on to say, “I would really encourage other students to take up the Gaisce programme because it really promotes group work. You get to know people better through project work or through the community activity. It’s great to get out there and meet so many different people.”