Critical Friends: Celebrating the Appointment of Disability Equality NW
We’re celebrating Disability Pride Month by announcing the appointment of Disability Equality North West as our new Critical Friends.
Disability Equality NW was established in 1996 as the ‘Preston Information Project’. Initially based in a small office basement with only 1 member of staff and 2 volunteers, the organisation has developed into a large user-led disabled people’s service (DPO) with over 20 members of staff and over 20 volunteers. At its core, the organisation prides itself on rights, equal opportunities, diversity and social inclusion for all. DENW exists to equip and improve the life skills of its users, all whilst upholding boundaries so that its users can maintain a degree of independence.
Our need for a Critical Friend group arose from the desire to respond to the needs of our local community. We realised that we needed to send a call out to the public for this role, and that our call out had to be issued in multiple different formats to reach the entire community. The brief was issued and made available as an easy read version, and was interpreted in British Sign Language to ensure it was accessible to the deaf community. In the call out, we stated that we were looking for a group that would act as a representative of the local community, providing them with a voice in relation to how we deliver our services. We want to become more inclusive, and greater represent the diversity that Preston has to offer; working alongside Disability Equality NW will allow us to achieve this.
We chose to work in partnership with Disability Equality NW as their core values very much align with our own, in particular, the drive to make The Harris more accessible for people with disabilities. As the organisation itself is a user-led disabled people’s service (DPO), who better to inform us on how we can implement change than those with lived experience.
The drive to create greater accessibility at The Harris ultimately comes down to understanding that the needs of a visually impaired person will differ to the needs of a wheelchair user. We must ensure that a range of different accessibility needs are considered and placed at the forefront of everything we do, so that everyone can enjoy this cultural space. This is why Disability Equality NW have been appointed – their collaboration, advice and suggestions will be crucial in developing The Harris into an inclusive space.
Speaking on the recent Critical Friends appointment, Mel at Disability Equality NW said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been chosen as the Harris Critical Friend’, this work meets our strategic aims as identified by local disabled people. The Harris is much loved by disabled people across the city and county and our relationship with Harris building, and staff team, goes right back to when we started in 1996 and we look forward to developing this prior to its reopening and long into the future”.
Harris Your Place
Harris Your Place is a £16 million project set to restore and reimagine the Harris for 21st-century audiences as a cultural learning space. The aim of this project is to protect the building and the architecture for future generations whilst enhancing accessibility options and positioning the Harris as a community hub for Preston and Lancashire.
The capital project is more than simply preserving this much-loved building; Harris wants to ensure that it remains a vibrant heart of the community. A place where people want to spend their time.