Peter White MBE helps boost disability awareness in Winchester

Press Release: 17/02/2004

Peter White MBE

Broadcast personality Peter White has this week confirmed that he will be giving a keynote address at a Disability Awareness Day being co-ordinated by Winchester City Council. Taking place on Tuesday 2 March at Winchester Guildhall, the event is free and open to anyone seeking to improve the services they offer for those with disabilities.

The special day was the initiative of the council’s Community Services Department, who have regular contact with a wide range of voluntary groups, small businesses, parish councils and other organisations.

Director Steve Tilbury said that with the introduction of the final phase of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) this year, 2004 is an important time to be raising awareness of the needs, expectations and rights of those with disabilities who live in or visit the Winchester District.

"We felt that a day-long seminar was one way in which we could help to increase understanding among both our own staff and those groups with whom we work," he added.

Delegates from around the Winchester District have been signing up enthusiastically for the event, including representatives from youth clubs, bed and breakfast accommodation, tourist attractions, parish councils, conference centres and retail outlets. During the morning they will hear a series of short presentations outlining the social and legal requirements to improve services for those with disabilities and offering a series of practical solutions to meet these.

Peter White’s keynote address, entitled See it my way, will draw on his own experience of visual impairment. Peter is a regular presenter on Radio 4 and Radio Solent and is the BBC’s Disability Affairs Correspondent. He was born in Winchester, and was the first totally blind person to produce reports for television news.

Event organiser Eloise Appleby, the city council’s Head of Tourism, added: "We believe that there is a lot of confusion and anxiety about the DDA, so we are also delighted to be welcoming Michael Brothers from the Disability Rights Commission as a speaker at our event. He will explain the reasons for the DDA, giving some examples of good and bad practice which should take some of the mystery out of the subject."

Over lunch and during the afternoon, delegates will have the opportunity to ask specific questions at one-to-one ‘clinics’; to look around displays by local disability groups and specialist equipment suppliers; and to try a special ‘taster session’ run by a customer care expert.

The city council is quick to point out that it too can learn from the event. Mr Tilbury stated: "It was very difficult to find the right venue for this event, and we know that the Guildhall is not the best place for visitors with disabilities. But it will be helpful to have direct feedback from those attending, as delegates or as speakers, about the ways we can improve facilities at the Guildhall and the provision of wider council services."

Winchester City Council Portfolio Holder for Community Services, Cllr Therese Evans, is chairing the day. She said: "We have some excellent working partnerships with local disability groups which have, for example, led to major improvements at our museums. We have also published a Visitor Trail by Wheelchair with the help of the Shopmobility Office.

"But we are committed to the continuous improvement of all our services for those with disabilities and, indeed, other disadvantaged groups, and hope that this event will trigger a host of other corporate initiatives."

The Disability Awareness Day is free for anyone to attend, either as a delegate or as an exhibitor. Full details are available from Linda Messingham in the Community Services Department on 01962 848311 or e-mail lmessingham@winchester.gov.uk