I recently enjoyed the opportunity to attend a coffee morning held by Oxfordshire Unlimited at the Clockhouse in Blackbird Leys. Oxfordshire Unlimited is a voluntary organisation which supports people with disabilities throughout Oxfordshire. It is run for and by people with physical and sensory disabilities and their goal is to ensure that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everybody else. The coffee mornings are held regularly, and disabled people and their carers can drop by to discuss any difficulties they are facing and receive support.
There are all kinds of barriers which disabled people can face in order to take an active role in the community and enjoy a high quality of life. Many current cuts in benefits are especially hitting disabled people, and I have asked Commons questions about this . What's more, simply because there appears to be provision made for disabled people (for example where there are signs in place advertising disabled access) doesn't necessarily mean that disabled users don't encounter difficulties. Many disabled toilets, for example, aren't suitable for users of mobility scooters. What happens when wheelchair users try to board a crowded bus where the allocated disabled space has already been taken up by pushchairs?
Not all roads have dropped kerbs which make them unsuitable for people who use a wheelchair or mobility scooter. We all too often see cars parked on roads in Oxford and unauthorised cycling on pavements both of which can pose a hazard to wheelchair users and users of mobility scooters. As a result of these kinds of challenges just getting out and about can be daunting, and there is a risk of isolation where disabled people aren't getting the support they feel they need.
Oxfordshire Unlimited do excellent work by helping to support disabled people and empowering them to live as normal a life as possible. They work with local authorities and other organisations to address specific problems and to raise awareness about the kinds of challenges facing people with disabilities and their families.
As well as the coffee mornings, the dates of which are advertised on their website here, they also offer a helpline on 0845 12 141 12, and are keen to hear from disabled people in the community about the sorts of problems that they face. A warm welcome awaits anyone who needs their help, or would just enjoy the company of meeting up.