CEO, Lyla Adwan Kamara, came back from a breakfast meeting enthusing about something new to us which went by the name of community chatting. It sounded good so we arranged a chat through the parameters of our members group.
Dr Anjan Ghosh of Merton’s Public Health Team came to a group meeting supported by, new to public health, Aalaa Jawad. Pleasantly they came early during our networking time and accepted our offer of tea and biscuits, sitting with us whilst we allowed for attendance to increase through the concept of International Crip Time. What’s that asked the good doctor; “we’ll get there when we can”. In the interim they responded positively to our enquiries about Public Health.
Time came for Anjan to start the chat. His theme is the redevelopment of the Wilson Hospital. It’s a Merton Clinical Commissioning Group (MCCG) project. His intent was to find out what we as a community would like to see develop on the site. He looked a the history of the area, wondered about our personal history with the site and enthusiastically asked for our thoughts which he recorded on reams and reams of flip chart. You wanna know? We wanna tell ya.
Ultimately we designed a village hall. We said what the overall concept was – a place we could go to be, a place where we could meet, a place where we decided the content, a place for learning about and from each other, a place that was free of sanction (we wouldn’t like to see the job centre housed there) and a place where we could use and benefit from technology. In building the Hall we decided how we would like to get there,level paving, free parking (around the site not necessarily on it), sensory gardens with benches where maybe we could grow an orchard of memorial for all the significant disabled people we have known.
Our key to the inside and outside of the hall was inclusion, not integration. We should not be separated by mobility or access signs, toilets should not be built for us but for everyone. It had to be a place where we could be seen as active participants not just service users.
All of which sounds pretty much fantastic but, of course, as disabled people we all know; the problem with consultation is local authority comes, has a chat with us, decides its only going to do what it was ever going to do in the first place and totally ignores a single word we said. That’s our history for you. We recognise it as a self fulfilling truth and we express our cynicism widely. But not this time. Anjan calls for an action plan.
He and Aalaa will take the flip chart, turn it into a picture, send it to us, we will review it and decide who goes to the MCCG and present our ideas in competition with the ideas of other groups and what is more he will come back to us and keep us informed of where we are. We will present at a future MCCG Breakfast meeting. But what about International Crip Time. Breakfast is so not us. We have PA’s to wait for, travel’s still not so great, etc etc. Solutions for participation need to be found. We will find them.