Letter: Help the disabled in the House and country

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The Independent Online
Sir: Julian Critchley has a cheek, writing to Tony Newton complaining about the lack of facilities for disabled people in Westminster Palace (Open letter, 14 December).

For 19 years he has been a Member of Parliament, and also a very busy journalist, author and broadcaster. Although he is now disabled, unlike most disabled people he is able to go on doing his job and earning extra money as well. As a result he must be far richer than most people - and in particular most disabled people - in the country. Why on earth does he need to rely on ancient manual wheelchairs in the Palace of Westminster? If he can afford to travel by taxi, he could easily afford to buy a powered wheelchair to get to and from the Houses of Parliament. And if he thinks it is difficult for him to get around when he gets there, what does he think it is like for disabled people who don't have his privileged status and literally can't get into the place at all? And hasn't he noticed that the same is true of most public as well as private buildings in this country?

I know - I am disabled too, and I have given up counting the places I can't use any more, from Parliament to newspaper offices. I have, however, been able to get equipment and other help from the physiotherapists and occupational therapists at the local health authority, who continue, despite poor pay and conditions and falling support and morale, to provide a marvellous caring service to the increasing number of disabled people. So why can't he, like everyone else in our situation?

Mr Critchley asks the present Leader of the House of Commons to do something about his particular place of work in the middle of London but what have he and his governments done about all the places of work in the rest of the country? Instead of trying to improve disabled access, last summer his party sabotaged a Private Members' Bill that would at last do something practical about the problem.

Yours faithfully, NICOLAS WALTER London, N1

14 December