We’ve been in our current home on Church street now for 20 years this month! It’s grown with us, here’s our story…
We’ve seen retail units, organisations and businesses come and go on Church Street, a Tithebarn project that never really happened, and lots of renovations to some of our favourite public houses – yet one thing that has remained is the on-going support Disability Equality North West (formerly DISC – Disability Information and Services Centre… and Preston Information Project before that) has remained strong.
We are proud of where we live and can offer our wide range of services from this accessible base in Preston, Lancashire.
The move to Church St was a key one in our history because the larger premises gave us more room to expand our services, though many people were cynical about it, not helped by the local press calling it “Psycho Alley” – we’d like to think we’ve changed their opinions on that by now!
Initially moving in, what is now 20 years ago this month, we started with just the ground floor level of the building – as our services and activities for disabled people grew, and we recruited more Volunteers and Staff, we soon took over the rest of the building (and on occasions the grass at the side of the building).
The charity began life as Preston Information Project in July 1996, it was initially housed in an inaccessible, one room, basement office located on the outskirts of the City Centre, with one member of staff, admin support and 2 volunteers, for this reason it could offer only a telephone advice line – though we often had callers to the office who, through a process that involved a trip through the back garden, we did our best to support.
That ethos of people with lived experience of disability, coming together as a community to support others to live independently and to remove barriers to accessing services, regardless of the day to day issues they face in their own life, is one that has continued over the last 24 years and is written into the organisations governing document to ensure that DENW is run and controlled by disabled people.
Now in 2020, we are proud to have a North West of England reach, 22 staff and 20 volunteers. We have gained the respect of the disabled and non-disabled community of Preston as we have developed from an inaccessible information service into a large, independent, user led service providing a range of services to address the individuals’ needs using a holistic and person centred approach – phew! Sounds a lot when you look back! Fair to say we’ve had a lot of dramas and a lot of fun in our Church Street home.
Mel Close, Chief Executive of Disability Equality NW said…
“This building was instrumental in changing our future and developing our services and the support we can offer people, together with our landlords and key partners, the building has also had significant investment to maintain it. The building, like DENW, is a key part of the history of Preston and the history of the disabled people’s movement in the North West.”
Disability Equality NW’s Information & Advice service now receives an average of 200 enquiries a month, and in addition offers further services to support it’s wider objectives of furthering the human rights of disabled people and removing the disabling barriers put in place by society – including Activity Groups for older, isolated disabled people, a Consultation group, Volunteer Project, Self Advocacy Project for the Learning Disabilities partnership board, Capacity building for groups, Strategic & Consultancy work on disability issues, and Disability equality training.
We are proud to be recognised locally, regionally and nationally, for the work we do including our strategic work with Preston City Council, the Preston Strategic Partnership and Lancashire County Council – making a significant impact insuring inclusion of disabled people’s views in local strategies and policy documents. Nationally being part of Disability LIB (Listen, Include, Build) Alliance, to capacity build other Disabled Peoples Organisations and we now deliver this work in Lancashire, & Cumbria as well as being a key partner on the national steering group.
We are looking forward to our next 20 years, supporting disabled people and their user-led services. Our main aim remains to further the human rights of disabled people across the North West. If you’d like to support us, or get more information about our services, please do get in touch.