Good Practice: Operation Sign-Up

            Operation Sign-Up 2001-the present

Organisation   Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA)
Country Ireland
Short description

Operation Sign-Up 2011 – the present:  is an Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA) housing initiative, which encourages and supports people with disabilities who wish to live in their own homes, but are unable to do so from their own resources, to apply for mainstream social housing through City and County councils. 

Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA) regards the availability of accommodation of a suitable design and type, in a fitting location, with the required personal supports, as a basic right. The availability of such accommodation directly supports people with a disability in participating in, and contributing to, the life of the community in which they live.

Programme activities

Within IWA a national housing working group was established, consisting of IWA staff and members involved and with an interest in housing, both with and without disability. In developing the Operation Sign-Up initiative this working group undertook consultation with staff and members at local IWA Resource Centre level. Contact was also made with the 34 local Authorities and their feedback was incorporated into the final Operation Sign-Up project.

What was very clear from the outset was that suitable social housing is very difficult to source, that people with disabilities often have very specific housing and accommodation requirements and that people with disabilities often require support to negotiate a successful housing outcome allied with the provision of easy to understand information on all aspects of housing and related matters.

The development of Operation Sign-Up involved taking account of all of the above including the [1] different types of housing that people would be required, it also used real life experiences of many of the 20,000 IWA members to demonstrate some of the barriers that people encounter and also to showcase some successful social housing outcomes.

The IWA housing initiative included a new housing website which provides a step-by-step guide to applying for social housing. IWA has broken down the ten steps involved in the housing application process and has also listed all other relevant information an individual will require during and subsequent to the application process; such as contact details for local councils, information links to local health centres and tax offices, and also details of all local IWA centres.
IWA endeavored to create knowledge and awareness of Operation Sign-Up through several mediums:

  • A Poster Campaign with supporting Leaflets and Business Cards - These were distributed widely both in hard copy and by email to community groups, HSE offices and local health centres, partnership companies, community and advocacy groups and organisations, youth groups and organisation, disability groups and other community contact.
  • A Media Campaign through local/regional papers and Local Authority Publications & the IWA Spokeout quarterly magazine.
  • Information Sessions– A standard Operation Sign-Up presentation was developed and used throughout the country.  These information sessions were shared with local authorities and/or held in local authority buildings. These sessions included; a person with a physical disability who had been through the housing application process speaking of their own personal experience; a Question & Answer session and a demonstration of the IWA housing microsite. Support to people with disabilities to complete the housing application process – through the IWA housing microsite and the availability of IWA Staff support at local IWA Resource and Outreach Centres.

[1] Independent Living; Supported Independent Living; Group or shared accommodation

Target group

The age range of people seeking support within the Operation Sign-Up Programme is from 18 yrs. upwards, men and women. There are no admissions criteria for IWA’s Operation-Sign Up only that a person makes an enquiry and requests support. 

Underlying theories
  • Engagement with mainstream housing system.
  • Person’s right to housing that is appropriate to need and within a reasonable and stated time frame.
  • Self Direction with support available if required and requested to negotiate the social Housing System.
  • Right to full and clear information that is easily located and grouped around the Housing theme.
Community partners

The main providers of social housing are City and County Councils and Approved Housing Bodies. To be in a position to take the experiences of IWA to a policy level, IWA is represented on many of the developing Housing and Disability Steering Groups presently being established in City and County Councils. IWA is also a member of the National Advisory Group on the Implementation of the National Housing Strategy for People with a Disability 2011-2016. In promoting commonality in relation to housing issues for people with a disability across disability groups and organisations IWA is part of the Disability Federation of Ireland and Irish Council for Social Housing special needs Housing Groups

Direct impact 
  • Operation-Sign Up Programme publicised nationally and locally both within IWA to IWA members and staff and externally to other disability, youth, community and health care organisations
  • Increased awareness among people with disabilities of the need to forward plan for their future housing
  • Increased awareness among people with disabilities of the potential housing opportunities that can be realised through being registered onto Social Housing Lists of their local City or County Council
  • Support given to people with disabilities to apply to local City and County Councils for a Housing Needs Assessment which on approval, places an applicant onto the local Housing List
  • Inceased numbers of people with disabilities showing on City and County Council Housing Lists
  • Increased numbers of people with disabilities showing on the National Housing Needs Assessment carried out every three years by the Department of the Environment
  • Ultimately a significantly increased supply of wheelchair accessible social housing tailored to meet individual need
Conclusions and results
  • IWA is a national organisation with Resource Centres & staff located across the country therefore IWA is in contact with people with disabilities in cities, towns and villages nationwide
  • IWA is an approved Housing Body with experience in developing and delivering housing projects
  • IWA has the experiences of its 20,000 members who mandate its work
  • IWA has knowledge and design experience that is empirically based on the experiences and requirements of its members
and Milestones

It is widely recognised by the disability sector, the statutory housing sector and also by the Department of the Environment that the numbers of people with disabilities on Council housing lists is not representative of people with disabilities’ accommodation/housing needs. When planning Operation Sign-Up the Programme was timed to bring the attention of people with disabilities to the 2011 Triennial Housing Needs Assessment and the upcoming National Housing Strategy for People with a Disability; both undertaken by the Department of Environment (Triennial Housing Needs assessment is a national count of households on all Council Housing Lists undertaken every three years by the Department of the Environment). 

The National Housing Strategy for People with a Disability 2011-2016 was launched by the Department of the Environment in October 2011.

The Operation Sign-Up Programme was launched in Dublin City Council offices by IWA in partnership with three of the four Dublin based Councils on 30 th March 2011.

Since 2011 the Operation Sign-Up Programme has become part of the ongoing work and services within IWA; every three years prior to the National Triennial Housing Needs Assessment the Programme is again highlighted within and external to IWA to bring particular attention to the relevance of the Programme

Milestones noted throughout the Programme included:

  • Development of the Operation-Sign Up Programme and supporting materials which included posters, business cards, launch invitations, launch event guidelines, press releases, IWA housing specific microsite.
  • One national and five countrywide launches of Operation Sign-Up largely hosted by City and County Councils in partnership with IWA in local Civic offices during March 2011.
  • The IWA Operation Sign-Up website was unveiled at the National and local launches (see at
  • Significant media coverage of national and local launches.
  • Targeted support available to people with disabilities to negotiate the social housing application process throughout the national network of IWA Resource Centres during March and April 2011.
  • Re-emphasis of Operation-Sign every three years by viral e-mail and poster campaigns with on going personal support available through IWA Resource Centres (see at
  • The National Housing Needs Assessment figures published in early 2014 showed a dramatic 200% increase in the numbers of people with disabilities on City and Council Housing Lists; numbers went from 1,315 in 2011 to 3,919 in 2013 
Contact/More information Dolores Murphy:

More information at: