Memories from Liz Trethewey (current 2020-21 Co-Chair)
I arrived in Eastbourne during the early 1990’s to set up a project called ‘Workability’ in the voluntary sector and came across the access group. In those days Dr Walter Wigfield was an active volunteer, a retired doctor. I vividly remember conversations with Walter about his work and his passionate commitment to access issues. It was Walter who lobbied the Council to put in the access ramp to the Town Hall. I remember at the time realizing the ‘cupboard’ lift in the town hall was not fit for purpose. I think this is still the same 25 years later!
In 1996 I started volunteering for the Physical Disability Forum as it was called. The chair was Jan Gould, whose memorial is the wooden walk on the beachfront down by the lifeguard station. The access group had some events with the forum and whilst looking through our minutes from that time I note that the access group were not happy with the forum for not replying to some correspondence – I hope my Secretarial performance has improved since then as a volunteer with the access group!
The energy and innovation the access group volunteers demonstrated back in the 1990’s has continued with the same spirit over so many years. It is a testament to volunteers past and present that we can celebrate 40 years of making changes to our wonderful town. It is frustrating that many of the same access barriers persist today, we must carry on and continue to challenge these barriers together.
Ian – Chair of Access Group 2006 – 2019
I joined the Access Group as a delegate from the Eastbourne and South Wealden MS Society and felt the group had a bigger part to play in society. Taking on the role of chair gave me the opportunity to re-establish the group as a voice for disabled people in Eastbourne and refocus on the reason Access Groups were established in East Sussex in a bid to address inequalities experienced by disabled people. Funds were low so after boosting the coffers with grant funding from local councils, I led the group in a series of projects benefiting local people and importantly raising the profile of the group in the process.
In the early days I supported Eastbourne council’s disability champion, Councillor Andrew Goodwin’s successful bid to transform the Courtroom at the town hall into a wheelchair accessible council chamber speaking to the full council in support and this inspired me into campaigning on a larger scale.
Provision of dropped kerbs was the first challenging campaign I undertook with disability champion Councillor Janet Coles and fellow Councillors together with Group volunteer, the late Robert Cooper as we regularly battled the county council. A battle that saw the county create a budget for dropped kerb provision for the first time in their existence but the campaign does not stop there and we need to continue ad-infinitum.
I am particularly proud of the compact A5 Eastbourne Guide for Disabled People launched in 2012 with the help of past Access Officer Pete Valentine and the late Dr. Walter Wigfield. The guide was instrumental in giving a new identity to the Access Group, being recognised by disabled people, their carers, both locals and visitors alike.
I am equally proud of the website and dedicated email facility that I personally created and which was subsequently much improved to its present form by a professional webmaster and volunteer Clare’s dedication to networking and information sharing.
I have always had great ambitions for the Access Group and once said “Today Eastbourne – Tomorrow the world” and this became reality when we supported the project ‘Let’s Loop’ with Hearing Link featured the Eastbourne Access Group and its logo in a worldwide promotional campaign for raising awareness of hearing loops prior to, during and after an international conference held here in Eastbourne.
I did what I could in a gently, gently manner but the time has come to add muscle to the ‘Equality for All’ message so I am happy to pass the mantle of the group’s leadership on to those more familiar with the tougher negotiating stance that is now necessary to drive the group forward.
What I have got from volunteering.
The knowledge that I have done something useful and helpful for another person is very satisfying. Throughout my life I have benefited from the help and support of others especially since being diagnosed with MS and it is my appreciation of this that drives me.
Volunteering has been a significant element of my life for as long as I can remember and I cannot imagine life without it.
Ian Westgate MBE
Volunteering memories from Clare Westgate
I became an active volunteer with the Access Group in 2013 after giving up work to become a full-time carer for my husband Ian, who was Chair and assist him in his role. It helped me with the transition from work, giving me a purpose to focus on beside my caring role.
Talking to people / organisations
I really enjoy doing the information stands for the Access Group particularly with Shopmobility in The Beacon with whom we have built a great partnership with over the years and at the many local events and open days. I like meeting people and helping them with the information we provide, our Access Guide and information sheets or from personal experience as a carer. Plus promoting the group and the work we do to other charities/community groups and organisations, council, etc.
I love living in Eastbourne and think it has a lot to offer everyone from accessible places to visit to a wide range of local support organisations.
Toilets – a subject we don’t like to talk about but need about 6 times a day!!
Since being a volunteer, I have seen how important toilets are for so many people. We could see there was a need for a toilet leaflet so off I went to visit all the public toilets and others in the area to produce it! It has proved to be extremely popular – toilets issues are often on our agenda!
We have been campaigning to get Changing Places Toilet facilities in Eastbourne and was delighted when the first one was put in The Beacon and subsequently the one on the Seafront by The Bandstand pressure goes on to get more – Congress Theatre, Langney Shopping Centre.
My biggest challenge for the Access Group –
Disabled Access Day – ‘You and Somewhere New’
The Disability Involvement Group (DIG) offered £500 to it’s members for an event idea(s). I had seen an article about Euan’s Guide Disabled Access Day and thought that would be great for Eastbourne. Little did I know that I would have to take the idea forward. Thankfully, a great Steering Group was formed and the event was planned for 16th March 2019. We had over 20 stands and activities in The Beacon, Barclays Bank and a Stagecoach bus on Banker’s Corner. The event was a great success with the Mayor and MP visiting and an extra special visit by a representative from Euan’s Guide. In future I will have to be careful what I suggest!!