Waterford City Council currently ranks third out of the State’s 34 local authorities when it comes to hiring people with disabilities.

The Council’s proactive hiring stance has won praise from the Irish Association of Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus (IASBAH), who obtained the information through a parliamentary question to Environment Minister John Gormley.

People with disabilities represent a total of 4.7 per cent of the Council’s staff, which is above the recommended three per cent level established by the 2005 Disabilities Act.

“We are very pleased that Waterford City Council employ higher than the required percentage of people with disabilities but many local authorities are ignoring the regulations set in the Disabilities Act 2005,” said IASBAH Chief Executive George Kennedy.

The national average regarding the employment of people with disabilities in local authorities stands at 3.3 per cent.  

“There are still some employers who continue to concentrate on a person’s disability rather than their ability to do the job when it comes to hiring,” Mr Kennedy told The Munster Express.

“And some of the issues which persist about people with disabilities in the workplace simply aren’t the case. For example, that they’re not good attendants due to illness – well that’s just not true.

“People with disabilities overwhelmingly tend to be goal driven, punctual and more diligent than able bodied employees and it’s important to make that known to a wider audience.”

Spina Bifida, which literally translates as ‘split spine’ is a neural tube defect which causes incomplete development of the spinal cord.

Ireland has the second highest incidence of the condition in the world with 75 babies born with Spina Bifida here annually.

Eighty per cent of that figure is also born with Hydrocephalus, which means ‘water in the head’.

It is caused by an accumulation of cerebro spinal fluid in the brain’s ventricles which raises pressure in the head, causing it to enlarge due the baby/young child’s skull bones not being fixed together.

Does George Kennedy believe that the aforementioned three per cent employment minimum established by the Disabilities Act should be higher?

“I can’t try to change the law,” he said. “But if we could establish three per cent as the norm in the majority of workplaces, then we’d be happy enough.”