SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Mobility for most

From Rustington to central Worthing, we see people moving around, shopping and working in ways that were not possible 40 years ago.

Sir Bert Massie and Sir Peter Bottomley in the integrated Airbus that could link London rail terminal passengers with Heathrow
Sir Bert Massie and Sir Peter Bottomley in the integrated Airbus that could link London rail terminal passengers with Heathrow

I knew about the challenges and difficulties from constituents and then when I served in the Department of Employment supporting activity for people with disabilities.

On Tuesday I missed a vote because I was speaking at the memorial meeting for Sir Bert Massie, the brilliantly effective campaigning leader for people living with disability.

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The approach is best illustrated by the name change of DPTAC, the disabled person’s transport advisory committee, which he led when I was Transport minister, to the Mobility Unit.

The new title was positive and forward moving.

Bert did not work alone.

Jill Allen and I greeted each other again, 30 years after she was the first person to let me join her for a pavement walk with her guide dog, learning about thoughtless pavement parking and the other obstacles for people who cannot see.

I repeated the walk with Guide Dogs UK in Worthing’s Warwick Street recently.

We can be grateful that Worthing Borough Council has extended their pilot scheme to reduce street clutter such as A-boards in the town centre.

Most of the pioneers are still active.

Lord Sterling has been responsible for Motability for decades.

He and others creatively turned the mobility allowance into the scheme that provides hundreds of thousands of vehicles that makes it possible for a person with carer, family or friends to travel independently.

Jamie Borwick was responsible for adapting the standard London model taxi to take any passenger with a standard wheelchair.

I laid the order that by the millennium every cab in London would be accessible.

We now take that for granted.

A bus operator reminded me of the accessible buses in Wales with Sir Harry Secombe and in England with Donald Swan where we sang A Transport of Delight, the Flanders and Swan song about the iconic London bus.

We decided that every new or rebuilt station should be step-free from platform to street.

Every new train should have an accessible toilet.

Every railway station in Worthing West is accessible to people who use wheelchairs.

The nostalgic black and white photograph showed Bert and me in the integrated Airbus that could link London rail terminal passengers with Heathrow, passengers with or without a chair.

No longer was there the need to wait an hour at a strange bus stop; everyone could travel together.

That was the result of Bert and his team, aided by Anne Frye, the exceptional civil servant who dedicated her career to making the difference.

All over the constituency, we now take for granted so many of the innovations and the creative approaches that make life fuller for so many.

Thank you, Bert.

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