By John Killick
The Disabled Motorists Federation ( DMF), was originally intended as the National ‘face’ of a number of independent disabled motoring clubs. Unlike certain other organisations, the DMF never limited its services to assisting disabled drivers only! From the start the federation realised that not all disabled people could, or wished to drive, thus we also attempted to address the needs of and be of assistance to disabled passengers and carers. Soon after the DMF was established (over forty years ago) we realised that there was no point for disabled being able to leave their homes and drive to particular venues if they were inaccessible. Consequently the federation has always been interested in access issues. Finally, unlike most charities, we are very proud to be able to say that we have never paid any of our very limited number of the charity’s management team which remains entirely staffed by volunteers. In other words, when seeking advice or assistance from the DMF, it is somebody’s private house you are telephoning; we don’t even have an office!
The good thing about dedicated volunteers is that very often they tend to be recently retired people who arrive complete with a life time of experience. I am a very keen traveller and since my disabled wife married me, she also loved to travel and could never see why sitting in a wheelchair should make any difference. As a result the DMF attempts to address many issues associated with the disabled travel sector, after all, why waste all that travel experience?
Now Peter Lyne, (the federation’s National Vice-President and Secretary) became associated with the charity in 2004 while still actively employed within the insurance sector of the motor trade. He is also very good at setting up links with other charities and companies. Since 2007 onwards, Peter continues to act as a ‘lay’ advisor for a regional office of the Crown Prosecution Service and during his attendance at panel meetings, matters relating to hate crime (including disability hate crime) are discussed.
I trust that as a reader to this editorial you are now beginning to realise how the DMF has diversified during the last 12 years, even though very much continuing to address the varied needs of disabled people, carers and families. Despite previously stating that the federation is staffed and managed by volunteers, this has never deterred both central and regional government departments to call upon the services of the DMF and as such it has been actively involved in numerous stakeholder forums at Westminster and other venues at which such a diverse range of subjects such as accessible rail travel, improvements to national trauma care services, Personal Independence Payments (PIP), accessible tourism and recreation have been discussed.
The federation cannot be expected to be experts in all areas relating to disability so it has adopted a very positive attitude towards networking with other charities and service providing organisations who can provide specific expertise. For instance as far as addressing the needs of carers are concerned,. ( I was a carer until my wife died just over a year ago). If I have a problem to address in the Sunderland area I telephone Sunderland Carers and they deal with it on behalf of the DMF. Works both ways though, if Sunderland Carers have a client experiencing a problem with Motability for instance (with whom the DMF enjoys a long and harmonious relationship), they will contact the DMF. Even Sunderland Carers can’t know everything, so a problem getting a wheelchair into a vehicle, booking holiday accommodation in France, travel insurance, just try John, he will have the answer! We have all brought relevant expertise to the DMF. Guess what Lady Hazel Rutter, our President brought? Why a great contact list with the Welsh Assembly of course. OK, I know that like my wife she is very determined individual. She can’t see a mountain without trying to get her wheelchair to the top! Now I was lucky, my wife also liked to go up mountains, but she preferred to use cable cars and chair lifts! Like our President and myself, our Chairman,Noel Muncey has brought contacts with the ex-service organisations. His expertise lies with the Army, Lady Hazel’s with the Navy and mine with the RAF.
So, now what exactly does the DMF do? Well, if you have a problem that can be resolved without stepping outside the law, then we may know the answer! If not, there is a very good chance that we will know somebody who does! Then, like most charities we can get on our ‘high horse’ occasionally. The government, both local and national, know that the DMF is one charity that can’t be bought off with threats to its funding since they don’t fund us. So we have a go about issues like PIPS. No, not the idea, the implementation of the system, the idea is just fine, but we don’t see how a non-medical person can have an opinion on whether that person is fit for work or not! Public transport; well if you think that travelling on a local bus service with no seatbelt or tie down is just fine, then think again. We have been asking questions on this one for years and will continue to do so until the law is changed.
What we are not here for is to fight the case for a disabled individual who has lost their Blue Badge by allowing a relative to use it, in fact we were one of the main bodies that persuaded the government to bring in the new law on the subject of illegal use of Blue Badges (The badge will be permanently removed and a fine of up to £1000 plus expenses and a criminal record will be handed down to abusers! You have been warned!) Parked illegally, exceeding the speed limit on at least five occasions until the local law has lost patience and removed their licence etc. We also don’t have funds to supply you with a car, much as we would like to in some cases. The DMF attempts to continue representing the interests or dealing with specific issues of disabled people or carers on a budget of about £3000 a year, so please don’t pull, our heartstrings by asking.
Should you wish to help us, then we run an individual membership costing £14 a year, application forms can be got from our website www.dmfed.org.uk or if you run a club and wish to affiliate with us then the cost is £35 per year. Contact details are on the website.
The federation is also keen to generate much needed revenue by networking with and forming professional relationships with commercial companies. Should any readers be interested in discussing these opportunities, then please contact the DMF’s National Vice-President by e-mailing email@example.com
By John Killick