Opinion: Why the Peterborough Unlimited campaign is so important

The PT’s Peterborough Unlimited campaign is highlighting issues faced by the disabled community in Peterborough. Leading campaigner Julie Fernandez is writing a regular column as part of that campaign...

Friday, 10th September 2021, 12:32 pm
Julie Fernandez

Welcome to the first monthly column on all thing’s disability related, here in Peterborough.

My name is Julie Fernandez, originally a London girl who moved to Peterborough in 2006.

My husband lived in Stilton so my introduction to the area was all about great neighbours living in a beautiful village.

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I was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) more commonly known as Brittle Bone disease. Over the last 47 years I have had approximately 100 fractures, around 60 to 70 surgeries and use a lightweight manual wheelchair full time.

Just before my 18 th birthday I was offered the role of Brenda Lockhead in a BBC soap called Eldorado and, for the last 30 years, I have been working in the media industry as an actress, presenter, and documentary maker. These opportunities led me to working in the field of disability equality and rights.

The journey has been exhausting with mini triumphs along the way and is something I would really like to explore with you.

Let’s start off by talking about the campaign Peterborough Unlimited, the brainchild of Joel Lamy at the PT, Councillor Julie Howell and myself. After numerous discussions we realised that something needed to be done to highlight the issues that the 50k-plus disabled residents are dealing with on a daily basis and those wishing to come to our city to explore, shop, eat and enjoy themselves.

The list in reality is rather long, but we narrowed it down to:

- Having a disability officer at the council, this person would have pan-disability knowledge and personal experience of disability, whose role it would be to ensure that all council services and assets that are used by the public and by employees are made accessible at the design stage.

- Lack of Blue Badge car parking spaces especially as the Blue Badge scheme has been extended to people with hidden disabilities.

- A shortage of accessible toilets, especially Changing Places toilets.

- Re-opening St Peter’s Arcade, a much easier route into the main part of town. We have been successful in re-opening this much-used access route.

- Difficulty getting from Peterborough station into Queensgate, something that Disability Peterborough and Councillor Bryan Tyler have highlighted for many years.

Do you, a loved one or a friend have a disability? What has been your experience, how have you felt when dealing with the DWP, the health system, education, housing, accessibility to the local business community and Peterborough City Council?

Your thoughts and opinions on the subject of disability and your experiences mean a lot to me so please do contact me by email on [email protected] to let me know what you think of our campaign and what is important to you.

If you have any other suggestions that our campaign should raise, please don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts.