Mayor Clodagh Higgins and Galway East TD Anne Rabbitte will lead the launch of Galway’s Gold Star programme next Tuesday at 11am in the Connacht Hotel.
The programme, officially titled Access Together Galway, is a major initiative to make Galway City more accessible to disabled people, and will be run through the Galway City Partnership (GCP).
Based on the Gold Star Disability Project developed by the HSE, the initiative will allow restaurants, shops and other businesses to be rewarded with Bronze, Silver or Gold Star awards for the services they provide for people with disabilities.
The public is invited to attend the launch. Guest speaker will be Anne Bradshaw of HSE Tipperary, where the original Gold Star initiative was rolled out.
Declan Brassil, CEO of GCP, will be speaking about how the Gold Star will benefit the entire Galway community, not just people with disabilities, while Access for All chairperson Marian Maloney will give the closing address.
Members of the Chamber of Commerce will also attend and entertainment will be provided along with light refreshments.
Maggie Woods, a long-time disability advocate, started this year as project officer.
“I’m excited to take on this challenge. Like a lot of people, I love Galway but know from first-hand experience that it’s difficult to navigate the city when you have a disability, whether you use a wheelchair or have a less-visible condition like chronic fatigue or an intellectual disability,” she said.
“This is a way to address the lack of services and accessibility – as well as educating people about disability issues.”
Maggie said the goal of the Gold Star initiative is to make Galway a city that’s accessible to everyone but to do that through positive reinforcement rather than focusing on the negatives.
“Businesses will be assessed for their accessibility for people with disabilities and, depending on the level of access, will be given Bronze, Silver or Gold Star awards – or no award at all.
“As more businesses are recognised for their accessibility, other businesses will hopefully be encouraged to participate. I think it has the potential to transform accessibility in Galway.”
Run by GCP, a community development company working in Galway City since 1996, the Galway Gold Star is funded through the Disability Participation and Awareness Fund approved in December 2021 by Minister Rabbitte.
The Galway initiative will follow the design of similar Gold Star programmes successfully launched in Cashel and Tipperary towns. The programmes support the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which was ratified by Ireland in 2018.