Highlighting the achievements and promoting the dignity of people with disabilities!

A Proactive Voice for People with Disabilities

by Amy Cochrane


“SEE the person, not the disability.” This is the maxim endorsed by the William Keown Trust, a local charity based in Dundrum, which was set up nearly four decades ago in 1979 by local man Bill Keown.

Born with cerebral palsy and raised just outside Kilkeel, Bill was unable to walk as a child. Despite this, he went on to lead a full and active life campaigning for the rights of people living with a disability and established the renowned charity named after him- The William Keown Trust.

Highlighting the achievements, and promoting the dignity of people with disabilities right across Northern Ireland is at the forefront of the charity’s work.

Many initiatives have been spearheaded by the Trust which provide a proactive voice for people with disabilities, through its annual Personal Achievement Awards, which are held in June, as well as various information pamphlets which are compiled drawing on the first-hand experiences of disabled people.

Seventeen years ago the Children of Courage Awards were set up as part of the Personal Achievement Awards, to celebrate children who have shown courage, determination and resilience in overcoming adverse circumstances.

The Carers Awards were then created in 1998 to recognise the work of carers. Mrs Beth Keown, interim chief executive of the William Keown Trust, said: “Carers are very important and are often forgotten about so we wanted to celebrate the selfless work they do.”

Another set of awards, which have been presented since the Trust’s formation, is the Prestige Access Awards, which provide public recognition for organisations who have made their buildings more accessible for all members of the community.

These awards, which are held in December, are given to property owners, builders and architects who have gone that extra mile to enhance facilities for those with a disability. The William Keown Trust published its most recent booklet, ‘Closing the Gap,’ in 2014 to inform property owners and public buildings of the various design options available which would benefit people with disabilities.

Numerous pamphlets and leaflets are available from the charity headquarters in Dundrum and online at www.wkeowntrust.co.uk which inform people about many of the issues and challenges people with disabilities confront in their daily lives. Last year the charity renewed their ‘How to assist a wheelchair user’ pamphlet which is compiled from the experience of wheelchair users themselves as a helpful guide of the do’s and don’ts of manoeuvring a wheelchair.

Its informative leaflets include ‘Church Access’ was devised to advise on reasonable alterations for churches to adhere to, in order to make them more easily accessible for wheelchair users. Mr Philp Beattie, chairman of the William Keown Trust, explains how the charity also put together ‘Access statements’ where alterations to buildings do not meet current regulations. He said: “This would normally apply to listed buildings which cannot be altered to any extent. “There is also a requirement by statutory legislation for new buildings to provide lift access to first floors but if someone with a disability cannot get to their services, if the service can get to them, then an agreement can be made as an exception,” Mr Beattie added.

Mrs Keown has often reiterated over the years the need for buildings to become increasingly all-inclusive to make people with a disability more comfortable when out and about. She said: “I think all public buildings should have unisex disabled toilets because in some cases people would need help, and what do you do if you can’t go into the men’s and they can’t go to the women’s toilets?”

The William Keown Trust supports a UK-wide campaign, Changing Places. The Changing Places initiative calls on businesses or public buildings to install an adequate space where people with a disability can have a complete change if required, providing a toilet, sink and shower area.

There is only one establishment in the local area, which has one of these officially installed on its premises, the Strangford Bay Lodge. It has been awarded a Prestige Access Award in recent years for its forward-thinking approach to holiday options for the disabled. “All disabled bedrooms are on the ground floor level and only a short distance to the shore right outside the building, it’s absolutely brilliant,” said Mrs Keown.

The William Keown Trust is currently seeking nominations for this year’s Access Awards 2017. Information and application forms can be found on the website or at the William Keown Trust’s headquarters at 3 Church View, Dundrum. Completed application forms should be submitted to the William Keown Trust’s headquarters before the closing date on Wednesday 23 August 2017.


About us

Over the last 35 years the William Keown Trust has grown into a thriving proactive and authoritative voice for people with disabilities in Northern Ireland.
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Getting in Touch

The William Keown Trust
3 Church View
BT33 0NA

Tel: 028 4375 1243
Fax: 028 4375 1444

Email: wkeowntrust@btconnect.com
Web: www.wkeowntrust.co.uk