Trinity turns purple in celebration of the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Niamh Herbert outlines the significance of the #PurpleLights project in Trinity and beyond

On Tuesday night, the front of Trinity turned purple in celebration of the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPWD). This was the second year in a row in which Trinity partook in the #PurpleLights project.

IDPWD has been celebrated annually every 3 December since 1992. The day was created to celebrate the disabled community and to encourage and facilitate equality.

The colour purple is associated with disability in the same way in which the colour green is associated with mental health.

Last year was the first year of the Disability Federation of Ireland’s National Purple Lights Campaign, which saw landmarks across Dublin lit up purple in support and celebration of IDPWD. This year saw more buildings and institutions turn purple for the evening, including the Civic Offices, Smithfield Square, Millennium Bridge, Mansion House and Dublin City Hall.

The hashtag #PurpleLights19 was trending on Twitter last night with people sharing photos of the various landmarks lit up across the city, with Trinity included.

To further mark the occasion, Trinity hosted an Autism Awareness Session for Science Staff yesterday in the Hamilton. 

Last year, the College Disability Service reported a total of 1551 students with disabilities registered with them. This number translates to 8.6% of the total student population, the highest number yet recorded. This report exhibits the continued growth of the population of students with disabilities in Trinity. 

With its infamous cobble stones and old buildings, Trinity College is an accessibility nightmare. Despite the physical challenges, Trinity is making moves towards becoming more accessible. As Trinity welcomes more and more students with disabilities, the College seems to be gearing itself towards becoming a more disability-friendly institution. 

Over the past year, Trinity became the first university to adopt the National Autism Toolkit to help students with autism settle into college, and was also the first college to install disabled bicycle parking facilities in all of Ireland.  

Speaking to Trinity News, the project organiser and disability activist Gary Kearney said that “disability is something that the abled community struggle to manage. #PurpleLights19 opens up the conversation. It gets abled people thinking about people with disabilities. Hearts and minds start the conversation.”

“Educate and advocate, but not by lecturing the abled community, but by introducing them to our world without guilt. Most abled people have no idea of our world. It scares them,” continued Kearny. “With #PurpleLights19 I bring them into the conversation without fear.”

As a student with a disability, I feel great comfort and solidarity in seeing my college lit up in purple lights in honour of IDPWD. There is certainly a larger conversation to be had about Trinity’s students with disabilities and the experience they have in College, but such a monumental gesture of support is a good way to start that conversation.

Niamh Herbert

Niamh Herbert is a Deputy Comment Editor of Trinity News.