Cheltenham’s business community is joining forces with a National Star student to make the town more accessible for people with disabilities.
Sam Vestey is campaigning to make the familiar disabled sign more inclusive for people with non-visible disabilities. The 21-year-old believes the wheelchair icon featured on blue badges and disabled parking bays is outdated.
Working with other young people with disabilities, Sam has launched an alternative logo. It shows two able bodied people with a third person in a wheelchair and the wording, “Some disabilities are visible. Some are not. Take care of each other”.
A thousand A5 window stickers have been printed and those championing the campaign will encourage businesses and organisations to display them. The campaign launch was hosted today (Sept 20) by The Wilson Art Gallery and Museum.
Sam, who lives in Bishop’s Cleeve, has a chromosomal condition called DiGeorge Syndrome and survived a pineoblastoma brain tumour as a child. He and his family have often been challenged when using disabled parking spaces and he doesn’t want others to have to go through similar experiences.
“Just because people can’t see my disability, they don’t understand how much pain I am in and how fatigued I get,” says Sam. “That’s why I have a disabled badge.”
Heath Gunter, Chief Executive of Cheltenham BID, said: “We are proud to support Sam’s campaign. We believe that everyone should be able to access our town centre, regardless of their disability. The current logo does not represent the diversity of disabilities, and we are committed to working with Sam to change that.”
The window stickers also include a QR code to a new page on the Visit Cheltenham website which will focus on accessibility.
Typecraft, based in Longhill, Cheltenham, which has already supported Sam’s campaign, is continuing by helping with the re-design and printing of the window stickers.
The groups hope, that once launched in Cheltenham, Sam’s campaign can be rolled out across Gloucestershire.
Sam is thrilled with the support. “Only a small percentage of people with disabilities use a wheelchair. That means this logo isn’t relevant for the other 93% of people with disabilities. It’s time for a change and I’m proud that my hometown is leading the way,” says Sam.
Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk, who is Lord Chancellor and Secretary for Justice, has praised the campaign.
“I know from my meetings with Sam that he is an incredibly powerful champion for the hidden disability community,” said Mr Chalk.
“Sam has used his upsetting experience of being challenged about his eligibility to use disabled facilities to raise awareness and to help improve public understanding of the challenges those with hidden disabilities face.
“Cheltenham is a welcoming and inclusive town and Sam’s stickers will ensure that all people – regardless of their disability – will feel welcomed and supported in Cheltenham.”