Shelaine Green was GDA chairwoman from 2009 until 2016, so I asked her what the legislation coming in on 1st October 2023 meant to her. This is what she told me.
For 40 years Dave Purdy sat in the lobby outside the chamber while States meetings were going on, intently listening on his radio. He couldn’t join other observers in the public gallery – it has steps and isn’t accessible. It wasn’t until 2012, two years after Dave’s death, that wheelchair users were permitted to watch from the floor of the chamber.
This simple solution, a ‘reasonable adjustment’ if ever there was one, didn’t cost a penny. It just needed a change of mindset. It could easily have been in place from the beginning. But no, for 40 years generations of deputies walked past Dave on the way to the bathroom. (And got waylaid by him on the way back – this intelligent, gentlemanly and persuasive campaigner wasn’t going to miss an opportunity).
Karen Blanchford, Rob Platts and Shelaine Green holding a poster of Dave Purdy on the steps of the States
It’s been a long, difficult and painful road to get to 1 October 2023 and a lot of people have worked incredibly hard. None more so than Karen Blanchford, Rob Platts and Dave himself. Finally, disabled people and carers can have the confidence to ask for reasonable adjustments, knowing they have the law behind them. Finally, businesses have access to training. Finally.
So as you celebrate on 1 October, if anyone dares to say that legislation isn’t necessary, that Guernsey folk will do the right thing naturally, just tell them about Dave, sitting outside States meetings, ear to the radio. For 40 years.