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Cork Disability Community Connects to Europe as MEPs Katrin Langensiepen and Grace O’Sullivan Lead “The Future Is Accessible Tour” in the Rebel County.

German Green MEP Katrin Langensiepen, one of the only Members of the European Parliament with a visible disability, visited Cork recently to research and inform her policy making in Brussels. 

MEP for Cork Grace O’Sullivan this week welcomed fellow Green MEP Katrin Langensiepen to Cork to discuss all things, inclusion, access and disability. The German Member of the European Parliament is embarking on a national tour of Ireland, meeting with people with disabilities, activists, service providers and carers to inform her policy making in the European Parliament. Katrin has been a leading voice on disability issues in the Parliament since her election in 2019, serving as the Vice Chair of the Institution’s Committee for Employment & Social Affairs. 

The MEPs first visited the Roots Cafe in UCC, run by the COPE Foundation. The Cafe is staffed by adults with intellectual disabilities and the topic of employment opportunities was discussed by the MEPs and staff, along with Chief Executive of the organisation, Seán Abbott. The average rate of employment for people with disabilities in Ireland was noted in 2023 by the European Disability Forum as being 32.6%.

“This is well below the European average employment figure of 51% for people with disabilities - and we need to question why that is the case, and what other countries are doing better than us” O’Sullivan questioned. 

Langensiepen’s work on the Parliament’s Employment Committee focuses often on this issue in particular. 

“No one country in the EU is perfect when it comes to employment for people with disabilities, but some perform better than others. Opportunities like the Roots Cafe that allow people to go out to work on their own are a fantastic example of what we need to encourage and fund EU-wide.” the MEP said. 

A conversation with artists at the “Crawford Supported Studio” took place later in the morning, followed by the MEPs being painted by artist Yvonne Condon. The artists here are supported by the Crawford Art Gallery and MTU Crawford College of Art and Design. Another MTU Institution, the Cork School of Music, then welcomed the duo to meet with “The Inclusive Music Ensemble” which features a diverse mix of participants with disabilities both intellectual and physical. 

A public consultation event was then held in MEP O’Sullivan’s office, where the issue of disability services provision was high on the agenda. 

“As a mother and carer for an adult with an intellectual disability, I know all too well the struggles that parents and carers face when dealing with the various bodies in this area. We have to fight for every last resource, and while I welcome the move of disability services from the Department of Health, there is so much 

MEP Langensiepen continues her trip in Ireland and will bring her findings back to her work in the European Parliament.  Katrin has already led as a negotiator on the new “EU Disability Card”, which aims to offer equal access to assistance for people with disabilities, regardless of their EU nationality. She will run again in the 2024 European Elections for the German Greens. 

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