Guest blog post - Oliver Greene, Chair of Camden Disability Action (CDA)
The joint venture between Healthwatch and Camden Disability Action was indeed a worthwhile exercise.
In visiting the Community Centres and evaluating how accessible they were, for people with a wide variety of disabilities, was of immense help both to Healthwatch Camden, CDA and the London Borough of Camden.
My background is in construction, and therefore having been a site agent for many years, it meant I had a great knowledge in relation to buildings and the appropriate regulations that are in place regards to accessibility.
The facts are that the majority of Camden Community Centres were built many years ago, therefore they were built in a time when regulations regarding disabled persons were not as they are today.
The centres that I visited were very old, but there is one point I wish to make very clear, the management and staff are doing a fantastic job with limited funds.
This also now applies to our local authority, this is mainly due to the present and previous Governments’ severe cutbacks, which many local Authorities are feeling, and the results of this means Disabled people of all impairments, visible or invisible are having their care package cutback.
The main item for the Community Centres is accessibility. There were clear difficulties if you are frail and disabled, as the doors to get into the Centres are very heavy and difficult to keep open for you to enter.
The doors to all Community Centres should be automated. The doors should be large enough to allow a large wheelchair to enter.
The Majority of Centres need their décor updated to make bright and homely areas in the centres as well as the lighting in the common areas and rooms.
The accessible toilets all need to be updated to the present legislation and be roomy and easy to manoeuvre within them. The lifts were small and one place I could not fit in the lift. The others just about.
It was a great pleasure to me to converse with the management and the staff and yes, they clearly agreed they would welcome more training in dealing with Disabled people with a variety of impairments, be them physical or mental and in addition training to be better at understanding those showing symptoms of Alzheimer's or Dementia.
I believe that with a maintenance programme of refurbishment these centres would get more disabled persons associating during the day for classes of art exercise and music.
People with or without disabilities are becoming more and more isolated and lonely but the Council and community centres can help reduce loneliness and isolation if they put on worthwhile shows and activities to keep people’s interest.
Finally, Camden Disability Action has secured the contract in partnership with others to run the new Centre for Independent Living in Greenwood place.
We will endeavour to make full use of the art, music and computers rooms for the people of Camden Borough and hopefully to be a one stop shop for all Disabled people with problems, in our delightful Borough of Camden.
Also, for large and small groups to meet and enjoy the ambience of the new Centre. Any questions please contact me.
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