Thursday, 24 June 2021

Disabled woman angry at club’s venue move

A HANDICAPPED woman from Watlington is trying to persuade two community groups to meet at the town hall — after

A HANDICAPPED woman from Watlington is trying to persuade two community groups to meet at the town hall — after they moved their meetings to accommodate disabled members.

Last year, the Friends of Watlington Library and Watlington Gardening Club switched meetings to the library and the Watlington sports pavilion respectively so Barbara Williamson could attend.

Mrs Williamson, the wife of parish councillor Tony Williamson, is wheelchair-bound after suffering a stroke in September 2011.

Now Sally Rawstron, of High Street, wants the groups to reconsider their decision because she can’t get to meetings of the gardening club.

She has a condition which means she is slowly losing the use of her right leg and had to resign from the club following its move to the sports pavilion in September as she is unable to walk there and does not want to drive in the dark.

Mrs Rawstron, 80, said: “The pavilion is quite a long way up the road and I really can’t walk that far because I find it very difficult. It’s lovely to have doors opened wide for the disabled but it needs to be reasonable.”

She has started a petition to support her campaign after consulting the Citizens Advice Bureau, two solicitors and the disability law service.

“It’s all I can do and hope lots of people support it,” she said. “I feel very strongly about this. It doesn’t matter what other people think about you, you just have to do what you know to be right.”

Mrs Rawstron’s husband, John, 81, is a trustee of Friends of Watlington Library and she had been a member of the gardening club for about 12 years.

She continues to tend her garden and plans to open it to the public later this year.

She said: “I have always had a garden. Every Sunday I drive out to see a National Gardens Scheme garden because I think gardens are the most wonderful things.”

In December, the trustees of Watlington town hall were awarded a National Lottery grant to buy an electric stair climber which will carry wheelchairs and their users to the first floor as well as a separate chair that can be attached to the climber for others who need help going upstairs.

A spokesman from Watlington Parish Council said the stair climber had been delivered and would be installed within the next two weeks.

Cheryl Barnes, chairman of the gardening club, said the group’s meetings would return to the town hall once the stair climber was in place.

She said: “Once the training has been done anyone in a wheelchair will be able to go up there with no problem and older people, like Sally, who can’t get to the new venue will be able to come back to the gardening club.

“Hopefully, we will all be back there soon and we will all be happy.”

Philip Pinney, chairman of the Friends of Watlington Library, said: “I do not like petitions, especially in a community such as Watlington where I feel they can cause unnecessary divisions.

“It is clear to everyone that the town hall has been our preferred location for most functions and until we can use it we will have to hold off prospective lecturers which, sadly, is losing us the goodwill of the community and reducing our income.

“Although I understand Mrs Rawstron’s reasons for raising a petition, I can’t endorse it in my role as chairman of the Friends of Watlington Library. That said, I may eventually decide to sign the petition in a personal capacity.”

Mrs Rawstron’s petition is available to sign at the library.

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