There is no greater disability in society, than the inability to see a person as more” - Robert M. Hensel

Over a billion people are estimated to live with some form of disability. This corresponds to about 15% of the world's population (World Health Organisation 2012). A global report on disability states that the number of people with disabilities is growing (World Report on Disability p.8) due to people living longer. The associated increase in chronic diseases, acquired conditions and congenital disabilities are all challenges that need to be addressed in disability service provision.

Too often the response to people with disabilities can lead to people being excluded and stigmatised. Services often emphasise deficits rather than strengths. In particular there is a tendency to offer group-based services rather than meeting the needs of people as individuals. Throughout the world there are many examples of institutionalisation. This is despite the internationally recognised “equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community” (United Nations, 2006). 

It is estimated that 13% of people in Ireland have a disability (Irish Census, 2011). Approximately 4,000 people with disabilities still live in institutions or psychiatric hospitals. 20,000 adults, most of whom have an intellectual disability attend a day service; the majority of which are currently group-focussed and segregated from mainstream community. National disability policy seeks to refocus resources away from group-focussed, institutionalised services to personalised supports which maximise opportunities to participate in society. Achieving these policy objectives requires a major programme of service transformation.

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