A new national transport training centre will open next year for people with disabilities to help them to confidently and independently use public transport, an Oireachtas committee has heard.
The National Council for the Blind (NCBI) launched their pre-budget submission for Budget 2020 as part of a political briefing for Oireachtas members on Wednesday.
The location of the centre will be announced by the end of July and it is expected construction works will be completed next year.
The submission focuses on six key Government Departments where urgent action is required to assist the almost 55,000 people living with sight loss in Ireland, a number which is steadily increasing.
There are 2,068 blind or visually impaired people living in County Donegal.
Kevin Kelly, Head of Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns with NCBI said: “While our Pre-Budget Submission recommends changes across many Government departments to improve the lives of people who are blind and vision impaired, of particular importance is the need to expand the Free Travel Scheme and ensure universal access to Assistive Technology.
“Presently, the Free Travel Pass offered by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection is hugely valued by those who can avail of it.
“Being able to travel independently on public transport is so important for people who are blind or vision impaired. However, the eligibility criteria to obtain a Free Travel Pass is very restrictive and inflexible.
“Over 700 of our service users cannot see enough to obtain a driver’s licence yet do not qualify to be registered blind and obtain the Free Travel Pass so they have to incur additional expenses to avail of public transport or taxis.
This inequity can be removed in Budget 2020 to include those with a long-term eye condition that renders their level of vision insufficient to obtain a driver’s licence.”