When We Were Kings and Queens of the Road: Daniel Airey

The Secondary School Years

2010-2016. The secondary school years. 6:45am, my dad knocks on the door and comes into my room as another day begins. He utters a friendly yet firm good morning greeting as I slowly regain awareness of my existence. Dad walks over to my bedside radio and turns on Today FM as the Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show is about to start. Depending on whether I liked the first song felt like an early indicator of how the day would go. Dad begins dressing me as I become more awake. Our conversations vary from what I have on in school to what we hear in the news and the latest sports updates.

By 7:00am I have made my way out to the kitchen, said Hi to mum as she prepares my lunch and I am tucking in to breakfast which regularly consists of a variety of cereals from shreddies to cookie crisp to Weetabix minis and more. Once we chat through our family breakfast and dad makes his way to work, I make my way to the bathroom to do my teeth accompanied by a Spotify soundtrack.

It’s 7:45am and I have finished my teeth and face and mum is helping me transfer from my wheelchair to the toilet and back. As the time to leave approaches, we put my jacket on and mum and I go through a checklist of my required items for the day ahead. Laptops, folders, pencil cases, walking frames, lunch and more.

A photo of a young Daniel Airey

We make our way out to the car and mum opens the boot and brings down the ramp to allow me to get into the back of the car. I stop on the ramp as she attaches restraints to the front of my chair. There is a distinct buzz as a switch is pressed to initiate the pull on my restraints. I push the joystick on my chair forward to drive into the back of the car and lock the chair in place. Mum then turns the switch off and gets to work attaching the restraints to the back. My over the shoulder seatbelt is then put on as mum checks that everything is comfortable and brings the ramp up with a click and closes the boot firmly.

Over the course of six years, the content of car journey conversations was fairly standard. From worrying about the quality of my homework as I was and still am the ultimate perfectionist. There was also stressing over exams and the sheer relief they were over on the way home and then came 2014. I had dislocated my hip and was up seven times a night with the pain. The journey to school became a task to ensure that I got to school. For the years 2014-2015, while battling a hip replacement and scoliosis which resulted in in spinal fusion surgery, school was my safe haven.

Daniel Airey grew up in Ballinteer. Graduating from a Masters degree in Broadcast Production for Television and Radio from IADT in 2021, he interned with RTÉ in 2022. Daniel recently directed a short documentary for Virgin Media Television as part of the Sharp Shorts Programme funded by Screen Ireland which came out on 9th May on the Virgin Media Player. Daniel has Cerebral Palsy, is a wheelchair user and has been an avid campaigner for better supports and treatments of similar individuals in the workspace and beyond. Passionate about media, production and communication, Daniel plans on making an impact in the broadcasting world. He currently co-produces and co-hosts the Dan and Darragh Do Ability Podcast available on all platforms. You can find out more about his work on his website Airey Communications (aireycommunications.ie).

On behalf of the Museum of Childhood Ireland and Robert Burns, we would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to all of our wonderful participants for their time and their stories. We are thrilled to be presenting this project and we hope you will enjoy following along with us in the coming weeks.

Have a story on this topic and want to get involved? Contact us on our social media sites, or email us at cbrowne@museumofchildhood.ie – we would love to hear from you!

By Chloe Browne

Chloe Browne is an Irish writer, curator and Art Historian, with a keen interest in objects and social history.