Council to take lead in breaking barriers

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Derry City and Strabane District Council is to spearhead a new initiative aimed at helping people with learning difficulties, autism or Asperger syndrome overcome the communication barriers they often experience when trying to access day-to-day services.

Members of the local authority voted unanimously to promote the use of JAM - ‘Just a Minute’ - cards at the Council’s monthly meeting for July.

The cards - the brainchild of the Belfast-based social enterprise, the Now Group, are small credit card-sized notices that let staff and service providers know that bearers may need a bit more time to communicate their requirements.

One side of the cards reads ‘Just a Minute’ with ‘Please be patient I have a learning difficulty/disability’ on the reverse.

SDLP Councillor Angela Dobbins proposed that the DC&SDC should “make every effort to become a JAM Card friendly organisation in compliance with its autism and disability friendly policy and support and encourage proper training in this regard” at the meeting in the Guildhall on Thursday afternoon.

“Adults with learning difficulties who love getting out and about and beyond to go to art galleries, events or even just meet up for coffee have expressed their concerns that sometimes they feel they can’t as they don’t often have the confidence to get public transport by themselves,” she said.

“They often feel under pressure and would like a discreet way of letting people known that they needed a little extra time,” she added.

Colr. Dobbins observed that the JAM initiative has recently been extended by the development of a new mobile software application [App] that allows bearer to log where and when they have used their cards .

This now allows card users to provide feedback on local service providers and lets the Now Group analyse this data and understand how, where and when the cards are being used.

“As a Council we should strive to help increase people’s confidence and independence and I believe that this increased confidence can open up all sorts of possibilities for people living with disabilities,” said Colr. Dobbins.

“It’s a simple idea but the JAM card and app will help many more people than those who use it directly. Families and carers benefit too,” she added.

Colr Dobbins’ motion won unanimous support from all councillors.

Sinn Féin Colr. Eric McGinley offered his party’s support and said the Council should set an example by its approach to providing services for people with learning difficulties.

DUP Alderman Hilary McClintock said she was fully supportive of the JAM card initative, which, she said, was a simple but very effective tool for improving accessibility in the Council area.

Independent councillor, Gary Donnelly, also declared himself fully supportive of the move and said anything that went some way towards making it easier for people with autism and Asperger syndrome to access services was to be welcomed.