WARRINGTON’S world famous Disability Awareness Day was the first of its kind in the UK when it was launched way back in the summer of 1991.
Now, 24 years later, the FREE annual event has gone on to become widely regarded as the best DAD in the world – attracting more than half a million visitors to Walton Hall Gardens.
“It’s been a fantastic journey,” says Dave Thompson MBE DL, founder and chief executive of Warrington Disability Partnership, organisers of event.
“And one that we just couldn’t have done without the magnificent support from our huge band of volunteers and, of course, the vital funding we have received from our sponsors.
“Like always, so much work has gone into this year’s event and we think we have put together a day that will have something for everyone, young and not so young, disabled or not!
“We can’t guarantee the sunshine, but we can assure everyone of a fabulous family fun day out – and the chance to learn about all kinds of opportunities for disabled and older people.”
Warrington’s success has led to similar DAD events taking place in the Punjab, Cameroon and Gibraltar, where Dave has been invited to make a special presentation this year.
Believed to be Europe’s biggest voluntary-led pan disability event, DAD is the perfect place to find out about the products, services and support that are available to help people remain independent.
More than 250 exhibitors are expected in the tented village at Walton Hall Gardens, near Warrington. Visitors will be able to get information on all sorts of equipment, transport services, holidays, leisure, employment, support groups and a multitude of services all working to a common goal of ‘promoting independence throughout life and work’.
There will be something for all ages and all abilities, including information for people affected by a whole range of physical, sensory and learning disabilities, plus expert advice from mental health charities and NHS trusts.
A wide range of sports will be available to try – including scuba diving, wheelchair fencing, archery, golf, basketball and small bore rifle shooting – plus a non-stop music programme taking place in the ever-popular Arts Zone.
Artists include several who have recently featured on TV – Britain’s Got Talent finalists Urban Gypsies will line up alongside Carly Ryan and Martin Finn from BBC 3’s Autistic Superstars. The programme also includes the Batala Samba Band, ELLA Performance Drama Group, Wired for Sound, Warrington Signing Choir transforming singing into sign, Wire Choir and Hollie Caddock.
“It’s an action-packed programme,” says Dave, “but the main aim of the day is to provide people with lots of information to help them get on with their lives.
“DAD is a platform to enable small and large support groups, businesses and public sector organisations to work together promoting their services directly to the general public.
“Since we set up the event all those years ago we have gone on to play a huge part in helping to promote a ‘can do’ culture focussing on ‘what disabled people can do’.
“And this is something all of us Warrington Disability Partnership are extremely proud of.”
Support services include a free accessible Park and Ride scheme, a free accessible bus service from Warrington town centre, a free scooter and wheelchair loan service with trained volunteers,
British Sign Language interpreters, unisex wheelchair accessible toilets, and more than 100 stewards and assistants all eager to make it a day to remember for everyone.
Car parking is limited, though there will be 300 Blue Badge spaces on the Walton Lea Road car park – adjacent to the bridge to the park. There are a further 700 spaces on the grass field over-spill car park at the rear (this can mean a journey of over 700 metres to the event site). A dropping off point is available adjacent to the bridge. Car parking is free for badge holders (standard rates apply to all others). Minibuses and coaches can park on the overspill car park (commercial rates apply)
A Second World War Dakota flypast through clear blue skies is set to be among the highlights of the day. The Royal Air Force spectacular is scheduled for 1.10pm
DAD Administration Team, tel 01925 240064.
PICTURED: Professor Fiddlesticks (John Cossam) and Dave Thompson, founder and chief executive of Warrington Disability Partnership, at last year’s fun and info-packed DAD