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Camden New Journal - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published: 12 June 2008
125 years is enough time to make school accessible

• HAVING read the letter “We’ve made sure all are welcome at the evening with Michael” (May 15) I went to Carlton Primary School meeting on May 23 in order to experience Michael Palin’s talk.
Sadly, I didn’t feel so welcomed by the access to the event. While I feel sure that the provision of a video screen by the school was well intended, it is by no means a substitute for access to the real event.
In fact, its existence could create a dangerous precedent, setting back the existing equality of disabled people in this country were the practice to be adopted more widely.
Both myself and my assistant who came with me felt very uncomfortable and isolated.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the provision of a large video screen, for example, when used in a large venue, where much of the audience are too far removed to see the performer. But the situation is quite different when a video screen is simply used to provide ghettoised and segregated viewing of the event for disabled people, while the rest of the audience are gathered upstairs, rather than moving the event to a fully accessible venue.
A video screen is no substitute for the real thing in this context.
I am an adult who has had a physical impairment since early childhood and I am used to dealing with discrimination issues. Yet I felt quite hurt by the experience of isolation. The reason why people go to live events is to encounter the atmosphere and shared experience.
In the later letter (Thanks to Michael, May 29) it is celebrated that the school is 125 years old.
It could be argued that 125 years is a long enough time to make this publicly funded school accessible to all of the community. People in England had been using wheelchairs for more than 200 years before the school was established.
For many years disabled residents in Camden have contributed (through various taxes) to the funding of the school, although many children with physical impairments in the catchment area have been systematically deprived of an equal education in their neighbourhood.
In the long term inclusive education benefits the whole community and, as far as I am aware, remains official educational policy.
This cannot be achieved if Carlton Primary School is denied the provision of a lift which could reach all its floors. The provision of this type of wheelchair lift could be installed quite quickly. It is now 13 years since the Disability Discrimination Act came into force. If disabled people were really valued in Camden, funds to make this school fully accessible would already be allocated.
Keith Armstrong
Churchway, NW1

Send your letters to: The Letters Editor, Camden New Journal, 40 Camden Road, London, NW1 9DR or email to The deadline for letters is midday Tuesday. The editor regrets that anonymous letters cannot be published, although names and addresses can be withheld. Please include a full name, postal address and telephone number. Letters may be edited for reasons of space.

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