Disabled people should have the same opportunities as everyone else

I have just returned from visiting Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation for Disabled People (QEF) in Surrey, where I had the chance to see for myself how this brilliant charity supports disabled people to increase their independence and improve their life skills.

As a fundraising consultant, my job is to tell people why they should support this cause, and the insight gained from this visit will help me to convey that QEF’s work is special and immensely worthwhile, and donations are much needed.

Hanne Widmer from QEF’s fundraising team led the way around the three sites, and she commented on how it can be an emotional experience to meet people with complex disabilities, since they have to face enormous physical and emotional challenges.

However, there is a positive energy about QEF Neuro Rehabilitation Services and QEF Independent Living Services centres. The staff were a delight and talked to the residents with much affection and warmth. I was blown away by the diversity of activities offered to clients, which form part of the rehabilitation and learning, and I noted the emphasis on individuality.

I was pleased to meet Aidan, a young man who lives in a group home in the Independent Living centre, and receives care from QEF whilst gradually gaining more skills and reducing the amount of support he needs. He had the chance to holiday on a canal boat last year, which has been specially adapted by QEF for wheelchair users. Not just to be on the boat, but to steer it himself independently. This is a typical attitude from QEF – OK, a canal boat sounds tricky if not impossible for wheelchair users, but come on, let’s find a solution!

Alfie, age 27 and recovering from a brain injury, obviously enjoyed the outdoor music session in the sensory garden at Neuro Rehabilitation Services, where Tony once a week brings the Glastonbury experience to leafy Surrey. And there’s a free for all in terms of music taste for those residents who take the mike in the centre’s own radio station: Radio Banstead.

A member of the QEF family of charities, there is a gem of a place called MERU, tucked away in Epsom, that I also visited. The dedicated engineers here design and manufacture individual bespoke disability products for young disabled people when no other product exists to meet their needs. The workshop was an Aladdin’s cave of tools and materials which make disabled people’s lives a little easier, or more fun in the case of the Bugzi powered wheelchair for pre-schoolers (see video).

A visit of a few hours would not give me any proper appreciation of the struggles faced by someone with a severe disability. But getting away from my desk and meeting the people who rely on this charity for fundamental life-changing help, will be hugely valuable. I’m motivated more than ever to help QEF raise money, and I’ll start by giving you this link! www.qef.org.uk/donate

Kate Wright, Account Director, ChangeStar