As the 2016 Rio Paralympics gets set to take the world stage, it is a good time to examine how we are really doing in Ireland compared to other countries, when it comes to creating inclusion amongst people with disabilities. Are there simple solutions that other countries are embracing, particularly in respect to employment for people with disabilities, which Ireland is missing out on?

The answers are examined in the new book Hand on Heart Collecting the Tools by Jamie Regan, Founder and CEO of the disability organisation, Hand on Heart.

As a Certified Practising Accountant and one of Ireland’s leading experts in developing social enterprises, Jamie won a 2011 Arthur Guinness Fund Award for establishing Hand on Heart, an innovative social enterprise that creates hospitality training and work opportunities for people with disabilities. Jamie was one of ten Social Entrepreneurs that year, which included John Evoy who established the Irish Men Sheds Association.

Despite tough economic times, Hand on Heart was growing, winning the hearts of corporate partners willing to embrace an employment programme that was based on a simple social model for disability. There were no donations or costs to Irish companies, just a simple new platform that brought businesses and people with disabilities together.

However despite the momentum from the Irish commercial sector, Hand on Heart started to hit barriers. After a significant personal investment, Jamie began to suffer a mental health disability himself. The stark reality of a disjointed Irish framework for disability social enterprises was unfolding. He experienced first-hand how a simple lack of understanding about disability could have such a devastating impact on a small growing organisation.

Hand on Heart Collecting the Tools is not an easy read for people with disabilities, or their passionate family and friends desperate to see that Ireland is becoming more inclusive. Readers will be shocked to find that one of Ireland’s leading accountancy firms describes Ireland as lagging behind its UK counterparts.

In November 2012 the Irish Examiner reported on the Europe 2020 Strategy ‘Innovative solutions for a sustainable Europe’. The article described how Ireland could deliver 65,000 jobs in social enterprises, should it reach the EU average of 6% of value of GDP versus its present 3% share.

Nearly four years on, Hand on Heart Collecting the Tools paints a very clear picture of how we might get there, if we start to make some dramatic changes.

Those Ministers in charge of Disability and Social Enterprise have a lot of work to do!


Hand on Heart Collecting the Tools is available online from the website from Thursday 1st September 2016.   Costing €15, 100% of profits from the book go to Hand on Heart, a not for profit organisation.


For further information please contact: Stuart Lawler, Chairman of Hand on Heart at or by phoning 087 97 00 313.

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