A disability-friendly town

The principle that no one should be disadvantaged by the circumstances of their birth is central to the beliefs of the Left and many others would consider it an essential part of living in a just country. The last Labour Government did much to improve the right of those with disabilities not to be discriminated against and it has become so well established in our collective notions of right and wrong that subsequent attempts to roll back those rights have always come at a political cost to the Tories.

Following four years’ work, local campaigners today celebrated success with the opening of a toilet equipped with a hoist assisted toilet, and a height adjustable adult changing bench and sink in the Town Centre. This equipment is necessary to ensure larger children and adults with disabilities and their carers are able to benefit from the same access to local facilities as the rest of us, without suffering the indignity of having no where to go to the toilet. Maria Cook–Crawley Community Awards Local Hero 2017–played a pivotal role in pushing for the new facility with County Mall offering to host it and Cllr Chris Oxlade helping to find the necessary funding.

Yet, in some ways we shouldn’t feel glad at the opening, so much as surprised that such facilities are so rare. Crawley’s longest-serving councillor, Brenda Smith, first ran in order to ensure that Crawley mums had somewhere in the Town Centre to change their babies and now parents would be outraged to find any toilets without baby changing facilities.

Crawley has secured international recognition for the fantastic work of the Crawley Dementia Alliance in making the town a friendly place for those with dementia. On the council itself, my Deputy Leader is legally blind and former Mayor Cllr Chris Cheshire, possibly the most energetic councillor on Crawley Borough Council, is wheelchair-bound. I want Crawley to be a national leader in breaking down the barriers that disabilities create.

Clearly that’s a big aspiration, so where to begin? Well, one place we could start is ensuring that this new changing facility isn’t a one-off. I know that local carers are very keen to see equipment installed somewhere in Crawley Leisure Park and given that Cineworld is already providing separate screenings to enable those with autism to enjoy the same cinema experience as the rest of us, it seems to me that enabling those with disabilities to be able to go to the toilet when they go to the movies would be the best next step.

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