Dave Purdy worked tirelessly to gain equality for disabled islanders

November 11th, 2011 by Rob Platts

The Bailiff of Guernsey Sir Geoffrey Rowland unveiled a plaque by the ramp to Market Square to commemorate Dave Purdy’s life and acknowledge his tireless work to improve the lives of those living in Guernsey with a disability.

In memory of Dave Purdy (click image to expand)

Over forty five years ago, on a lovely summer’s day, Dave Purdy decided to go swimming with a friend at Belvoir Bay in Herm.

That decision not only changed his life but, indirectly, came to change the lives of thousands of disabled islanders and would lead on to shape and influence almost all disability issues here ever since.

Living in Guernsey has some tremendous benefits, not least of which is that some of the ills of the world are somewhat slower to reach us. Conversely however, this same barrier can also mean that positive change can be delayed.

The Bailiff of Guensey, Sir Geoffrey Rowland, addresses the large audience that gathered to see the unveiling of the plaque commemorating the life of Dave Purdy (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

At the time that Dave suffered his accident and found that he would need to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life, the principles of equality for disabled people were developing around the world, but Guernsey was many years behind both in terms of social attitude to, and provision for, disabled people.

At the beginning of the 1970’s, Dave started what would become his life’s work – to try to achieve equality for disabled people, by changing social attitude, by working and campaigning for the provision of better services, and by improving the built environment.

Rob Platts of the Guernsey Disability Alliance speaks about Dave Purdy's many accomplishments (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

There isn’t time today to list all the projects Dave became involved with but I would like to highlight a few:

1981 was designated the International Year of Disabled People . Dave took on the role of treasurer of the local committee which led him to help raise the initial capital to start the Guernsey Cheshire Home. His drive and influence was pivotal and without Dave, there probably would not be a Guernsey Cheshire Home today.

Dave founded the Guernsey Association of Disabled People and went on to chair this organisation for the next 16 years.

In 1993, as a direct result of this association’s work, the States of Guernsey enacted Part M of the Building Regulations. This means that plans for all new buildings, and any substantial renovations, must include provision for ease of access, together with facilities for disabled people. Quite an achievement in an island that, even today, still has no Disability Discrimination Act.

Sir Geoffrey Rowland and Shelaine Green, Chair of the Guernsey Disability Alliance, admire the plaque in honour of Dave Purdy (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

The Association’s work and campaigning led to the first accessible parking spaces in Guernsey and Dave and his committee were a major influence in establishing a Blue Badge scheme.

Realising the island lacked basic facilities not only for residents but also for visitors, Dave campaigned hard for, and was successful in introducing, the Radar scheme of accessible toilets. Flush with this success (sorry!) Dave worked closely with the Housing Department to establish the island’s first accessible social housing units at Rodley Park, St. Sampson.

Sir Geoffrey Rowland with Shelaine Green. Sir Geoffrey Rowland and Dave Purdy had been friends since their teenage years (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

Dave also supported fellow disabled islanders directly through voluntary work, including recording a weekly sports report for Guernsey Audio News.

Incredibly, he single-handedly wrote a full Access Guide to Guernsey in 1989 and also provided the “Guide to Social Services” for the Guernsey Welfare Service for seven years.

When the Guernsey Disability Alliance was formed in 2008, Dave became its first Vice Chairman.

Inspired by Dave, the GDA has established itself as the major and unifying voice, for all the many and disparate disability linked charities, organisations and individuals on the island.

Thanks to the GDA, the States of Guernsey has appointed a Political Champion for Disabled People and has employed a Disability Officer to write a Disability Strategy for the island.

Rob Platts, Non Executive Director of the Guernsey Disability Alliance, with Shelaine Green (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

Dave’s calm and measured approach to disability issues is sorely missed, but his spirit and influence is still very noticeable at GDA meetings. If ever we are looking for inspiration or guidance someone is sure to ask, “How would Dave have approached this?”

Dave advised planners and architects on many projects. Perhaps the one he felt most proud to have been a part of, was the creation of this ramp here at Market Square.

The ramp leading to market square that was created with Dave Purdy's vision (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

Now it’s here, it just seems so right and such an obvious improvement, but at the time it was extremely difficult to achieve. I understand they had to move an entire electricity substation in order to build this ramp.

The GDA committee thought Dave would really like the site of his plaque – so symbolic in summing up his life’s work – making other people’s uphill struggles easier.


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