“I always wondered why someone didn’t do something about that… then I realised I was someone…”

Wed,3 July 2024
Blog Equality & Rights Participation
Shelley Simmonds, a member of DR UK's Board of Trustees, writes about her experience as a parent-carer fighting alongside her son, Fraser, for accessible facilities in her local area. It is another positive story of campaigning change by Disabled people, carers and our loved ones.

I love the place I call home. A town in which I’ve lived since my birth 44 years ago, and a place where I now get to watch my own children grow up. However, my 11-year-old son is a full-time powered wheelchair user, and I’ve sadly realised that our local community has many accessibility barriers for him. So, I've made it my mission to change things! 

Over the last few years I've been working with my local Council on three projects; the replacement of old gates in the nature reserve next to my house, a beautiful place but one that Fraser couldn't get into, the installation of a Changing Places in our lovely park so Disabled people and those with complex health conditions have access to safe toileting facilities, and designing two new playgrounds with accessible equipment so that Disabled children can play too.  

It’s brilliant to see Fraser whizzing through the nature reserve! Alongside the new wider gates, the Council have also put some proper paths in, so we no longer have the problem of muddy wheels! Our local park, with its accessible and inclusive playground and the Changing Places fills my heart with joy. This was a place that was difficult for us to come to when Fraser was young as there was nothing for him to play on and no toilet he could use. Knowing this is now different for other families and knowing we made that happen is indescribable. 

Now that Fraser is maturing, he is learning the skills that enable him to advocate for himself. I’m not Disabled so I can only ever talk from a parent carer perspective, so it’s great hearing him give our local Councillors a what for!  

We’ve also been advising our local farm park and sporting village on inclusion and accessibility - both have been so welcoming of our lived experiences and views. The farm park opened a Changing Places last year and they’ve almost finished building their second, it’s brilliant progress!  

We should never be 'grateful' for inclusion, but I am thankful to those people in positions with the power to bring change for listening to us and ensuring these projects come to fruition. The worst feeling with inaccessibility is that of not being welcome somewhere, or feeling like inclusion has been decided by individuals without lived experience to simply tick a box. Families like mine are not a tick box, we are real human beings who are tired of fighting for the most basic of things. 

Despite our campaigning successes, there is still so much to do, and still so many more people to educate. It's no mean feat juggling this while also working a full-time job, but when we feel passionately about something, we invest ourselves in the cause. And if I don't do something about these inequalities, who will?