Community Health and Wellbeing Team worker Ian recently attended the Accessible Calderdale conference at Shay Stadium, hosted by Calderdale Council and Visits Unlimited, which aims to improve access and work towards a barrier-free world for disabled people.
Here's what Ian had to say about his experience:
I attended the Conference and found out about all of the incredible work which is being done by local organisations to help make the valley more accessible for all. Calderdale - as I'm sure we'd all agree - is a very beautiful part of the world with some stunning natural resources such as woods, moorland, rocky crags, rivers and reservoirs but often these areas are not as easy to reach for people who have disabilities.
Work is being done by organisations to improve roads and pathways to make some of these natural resources more available. The work being done at Cromwell Bottom particularly has made an attractive part of the local area easy to access for all whilst also supporting conservation and bringing wildlife back to the area. Further into the valley itself is not an easy task with the very nature of our steep-sided valley being something of a hindrance on this front. However some of the older buildings in the area are being adapted to allow more opportunities for visitors with disabilities to visit the area with IOU theatre taking on Hebden Bridge Hostel and making it fully accessible, plus the good work being done by Fire and Water in Sowerby Bridge to make their buildings available for all.
The fact that there are so many artists, musicians and creative types of all stripes in the valley is a real asset, too. Much is being done to make events across the area more welcoming to people who may find the arts hard to access due to mobility or neurodiversity (for example, special film screenings and theatre shows for people on the autistic spectrum are becoming more common).
One of the issues raised at the conference was around fostering a greater understanding of hidden disabilities and how that can make it difficult to engage in activities and events and what we can do to address this. There was also some discussion by older activists about the challenges faced in the past by disabled people and the positive steps that have been made in the last few decades.
We are incredibly grateful to the Council and to Visits Unlimited for highlighting these incredibly important topics, and for inviting us to attend.