Our Man in Westminster
One of the charities I have enjoyed being associated with for many years is Ashford Access, which has done a great job since it was formed 20 years ago.
The annual meeting last week was the last in the current format of Ashford Access, so it is worth marking.
The group has campaigned hard and effectively on behalf of disabled people who find buildings and pavements a struggle to get around. Whether through problems with sight, or having to use a wheelchair, or other reasons, many people find everyday life a struggle, and the Access Group has persuaded a number of local institutions to do better by disabled people. Their work is by no means done, so I am glad to report that although Ashford Access will cease to be a charity, it will remain in being as an advisory group to Ashford Borough Council.
This will be an increasingly important role, with the many major new developments now coming to fruition in the town. Not just housing developments such as Chilmington Green but the cinemas and restaurants in Elwick Place will benefit if they are designed from the outset with the needs of disabled people in mind. I vividly remember how my own knowledge of this subject was raised by being blindfolded and led around town by a guide dog organised by the RNIB.
Crossing the road is an ordeal when you cannot tell when the pavement ends and the road begins, and in parts of the town centre that is the case.
Over 20 years the trustees and committee members of Ashford Access can be proud of the real difference they have made to the quality of life of thousands of people in the area.
I am sure that in their new incarnation they will be equally effective.