Disability group aims to improve village hall access
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A disability group based in Caithness aims to improve accessibility at village halls to help them "stay alive and prevent rural depopulation".
Funded by the Greencoat Stroupster Community Fund and the Achlachan Wind Farm Community Benefit Fund, administered by Foundation Scotland, the Caithness Disabled Access Panel (CDAP) saw a delay to its intended project to help Caithness village halls improve facilities. But now it is able to visit facilities and provide community groups that run the halls with suggestions about how to improve access for the disabled as well as ideas about how best to adapt toilets.
Typical examples of work that have been identified by the CDAP are:
- Ramps instead of steps at the entrances to halls which helps wheelchair access as well as being useful to people with prams and pushchairs.
- Hard surfacing to car park areas instead of gravel which aids access.
- A hearing loop system that transmits an audio signal into hearing aids via a magnetic field is invaluable to the deaf.
The funding was originally secured back in January 2020 but restrictions relating to Covid-19 have prevented visits to the halls. Now the halls are looking to reopen, the timing is ideal for CDAP to visit and help guide groups to ways of improving their facilities.
CDAP consists of a number of volunteers working with the council and other bodies to help improve the living environment for disabled people.
Its project officer Louise Smith said: "Our hidden gems, village halls are reopening after lockdown. The hall committees have been keen to speak to the Caithness Disabled Access Panel who are helping community buildings improve their access for disabled users.
"Events taking place in them include meal nights with entertainment such as a band; board games/ backgammon/ dominoes (tactile for the blind); community theatre and flower shows. And annual events such as Easter competitions, Christmas and Halloween parties are popular."
A recent inspection at Scotscalder Hall organised by Dave and Catherine Busby – chair and treasurer respectively of the hall committee – showed how good the hall was for accessibility. A few years ago funding from the Halkirk District Benefit Fund covered the cost of improvements including installing a disabled toilet.
Community buildings where access or disabled toilets could be added or improved can contact project officer Louise Smith by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07776 225 549. She is now visiting halls in person again and helping guide communities to improvements.