Yank Discovers Hospitality of Muscular Dystrophy Ireland

MDI offers disabled visitors to the Emerald Isle accessible and affordable transportation and lodging

Evening panorama over the River Liffey in Dublin, Ireland
Article Highlights:
  • Traveler and author Chad McCruden explains why it is beneficial for him to be a member of the Muscular Dystrophy Society of Ireland (MDI), a voluntary organization that was founded in 1972 by a group of parents whose children had muscular dystrophy.
  • As a member of MDI, the author has received access to transportation, apartments and resources available in Dublin, allowing him to travel to Ireland with greater ease.
by Chad McCruden on October 1, 2012 - 9:00am

QUEST Vol. 19, No. 4
Chad McCruden

I am a “Yank” who loves to visit his family in Dublin, Ireland. Over the past 13 years, I have visited Ireland some 17 times. I enjoy it so much in Ireland that I got my dual citizenship in 2006. I’m 39 now, and oh yeah, I have muscular dystrophy (Friedreich’s ataxia). 

I have used a wheelchair since I was 19, and it has become more difficult for me to continue traveling to Ireland. In the past few years, transferring in and out of vehicles, getting in and out of bed, and navigating the bathroom (toilet and shower) have become significant deterrents to continuing my visits. Frankly, getting on and off, as well as being comfortable using the toilet have become major issues for me. The disruptions and difficulty with just doing my ADL’s (activities of daily living) led me to believe I would no longer be able to visit Ireland.

Then, I became aware of the Muscular Dystrophy Society of Ireland (MDI), a voluntary organization that was founded in 1972 by a group of parents in Galway whose children had muscular dystrophy. These parents met together in their homes to set up a support network for people with muscular dystrophy and their families. MDI has developed considerably, and today has about 600 members and employs staff nationwide. The Society funds some research and offers national support services for individuals, families and youth, such as information, respite and home support, transportation, youth camps and clubs, and counseling services.

I was elated as I learned more about what MDI offers its members. During my last visit, my family had rented a wheelchair accessible van (minibus) at some expense. This year, we learned of the availability of MDI’s short-term loan of an accessible minibus. My family became members of MDI, and were able to book the van to transport me during my six-day stay. MDI asked for a donation of about $32.25 (25 euros) per day for the van.

We also learned about the availability of a fully wheelchair-accessible three-bedroom “Home from Home” apartment available to members and nonmembers for short-term breaks up to seven nights. For me, this was a game-changer. I have never heard of the availability of such a wonderful resource for people with physical and sensory disabilities in Ireland, Europe or even the United States. I consider myself quite knowledgeable about resources for people with disabilities, but this astonished me.

MDI’s fully accessible Dublin apartment that Chad rented for a week features an adjustable-height counter and stove top in the kitchen (top photo). The building exterior has an easily accessible lift to the second-floor rooms (bottom photo).

When I saw the apartment, I was absolutely invigorated. Let me try to describe what I experienced. I was traveling with two good friends, and we were expecting a “hard go-of-it.” What we found was a truly fully accessible apartment, with three accessible bathrooms and three accessible bedrooms. There’s also a separate comfortable bedroom for a travel companion or aide.

Located on the second floor and accessible by elevator, the apartment reminded me of a college dormitory suite, with the wheelchair accommodations of one of our finer rehabilitation hospitals.

In addition to a common lounge and kitchen area shared by all guests, there are several comfortable hospital-style beds (twins and one double) in the accessible bedrooms. In-ceiling lifts (“hoists”) on tracks enabled safe and comfortable transfer to and from my wheelchair and bed. A similar in-ceiling lift system enabled me to safely get on/off the toilet and in/out of the walk-in shower. Ahh, this was so refreshing for me! And, the fully equipped accessible kitchen has a counter and stove top that raise and lower — a classy and delightful touch.

MDI books guests on a room-by-room basis; multiple guests share the kitchen and lounge areas. MDI suggests a donation of about $32.25 (25 euros) per room per night. There’s no charge for a room for an aide or helper. Booking the entire apartment costs about $97 (75 euros) per night.

Let me say, this apartment is awesome. It makes me feel like I can — and will — be back to Ireland many more times. I’m also so excited for all my friends who have muscular dystrophy, and their families, to share some of the wonderful experiences I’ve had with my travels to Ireland. Because of MDI’s accessible accommodations, a safe and comfortable visit to Dublin is now very possible. 

This experience has reaffirmed what I’ve told the MDA teen group I facilitate in Maryland —  that international travel is possible and easier than you think as long as you plan ahead of time. If I had more of the entrepreneurial spirit and the finances, I would try to start up similar accessible apartments and van fleets everywhere that wants to boost tourism.

I whole-heartedly endorse MDI’s apartment, and encourage you to become members and book a stay soon. MDI membership is available in different categories and costs approximately $20 to $25 a year. Visit the MDI website to learn more.

Chad E. McCruden, 39, of Baltimore, is a community work incentive coordinator at the League for People with Disabilities. He has Friedreich’s ataxia.

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