The formation of an organisation which would be operated and controlled by physically disabled people became an urgent priority with Martin, Ann and Pat. They invited a number of people; Kevin Regan (Gort, Co. Galway), Harold Grimes (Ballinrobe), Martin Forde (Galway), Richard McDonnell (Castlebar), Paddy McHale (Ballycastle, Ballina) and Pat Flannery (Castlerea) to assist in the formation of such an organisation.
In 1968 Mr. Jarleth Ruane, Solicitor, Claremorris, was requested to draw up the Articles of Association for the new Association so that it could be registered with the Department of Industry and Commerce as a charitable organisation. The stage was now set for the founding of the Disabled Drivers Association of Ireland. The seven subscribers to the Memorandum of Association were: Martin Donohue, Patrick Grogan, Martin Forde, Patrick Flannery, Kevin Regan and Kathleen Lally. Witness to the signatures was Maire bean de Burca. All were physically disabled.
The Association was founded at a meeting in the Town Hall, Claremorris, Co. Mayo on Sunday, January 25th 1970. The following officers were elected: Martin Donoghue (Chairman); Patrick McHale (Vice Chairman); Pat Grogan (Treasurer); Kathleen Lally (Secretary); Martin Forde (Public Relations Officer). Committee: Richard McDonnell,
Pat Flannery, Michael McGarry, James Riddell, John Cooley, William Rushe, Kathleen Coffey. The Most Rev Dr Cunnane, Archbishop of Tuam, became patron of the Association.
The Committee decided that the Association must press for full open employment at a proper wage for all physically disabled people who were willing and able to work; (at this time disabled people could not access employment in the normal way, the only employment available to them was “sheltered employment”). In keeping with this decision, it was agreed that only physically disabled people would be employed in the association or in any fundraising. £100 was urgently required to get brochures and stationery and this was offered as a loan by Kevin Regan. A site was purchased by Christopher Grogan, Ballindine, (a brother of Pat) and donated to the Association. Later the Association purchased a further 5½ acres adjoining this site. A fundraising team was set up to collect money to finance the various projects, not least of which was the building of headquarters, workshop and training centre. A newsletter edited by Martin Forde (who would later serve as Chairman for a time) was published to keep members informed of what was happening in the association and of their entitlements.
That first year saw many achievements. The Automobile Association agreed to give members a free breakdown service. The Association Crest was accepted by the Garda Authorities as a symbol of accessibility, allowing the holder to park in an otherwise restricted area in towns and cities; this was the forerunner of the present day European Disabled Person’s Parking Card. A deputation from the Association met with senior officials of the Department of Health and put a number of proposals to them: that all taxes on cars purchased by physically disabled motorists should be recoverable; that the means test in so far as it applied to relatives of disabled people in receipt of disability pensions be abolished; that all disabled people on disability pensions or other low incomes should be entitled to free T.V. licences, free travel on public transport, free electricity and where severely disabled people were residing alone they should be provided with a free telephone . It was also requested that people in receipt of a disability pension should be allowed to earn an amount equal to their pension and that parents of disabled children should get a weekly allowance from infancy, to maintain such children at home. Some of these concessions were conceded within a few months, others over succeeding years.
During that first year the Association also found time to teach members to drive; help and advise members on all aspects of driving and car adaptations; set up social clubs in Galway and Castlebar; set up sports clubs and help many members get into open employment.