Dave Purdy was just a teenager when he seriously and permanently injured his spine in a swimming accident in Herm in 1966.
He began campaigning for better access in 1972 and he was still pushing to achieve equality for islanders with disabilities right up to his death in November 2010. His 38 years of meticulously-researched campaigning was entirely voluntary, and achieved whilst holding down a full time job in his family’s business and managing his own tetraplegia.
He worked on his own until 1981, the International Year of Disabled People (IYDP). As Treasurer of the local committee, he gave speeches to raise awareness throughout the year. The committee raised £18,500 which was used to set up the Guernsey Cheshire Home, the GROW gardening scheme and several research projects. Dave remained a long term member of the Cheshire Home Committee.
A further outcome of the International Year of Disabled People was the Guernsey Association of Disabled People (GAOD), which Dave founded and then chaired for 16 years. As a direct result of GAOD’s work, Guernsey enacted Part M of the Building Regulations in 1993, despite the island having no other disability legislation. This means that plans for all new-build houses and any substantial renovations must include provision for ease of access
In addition, Dave and GAOD:
- Campaigned to create the first 12 accessible parking spaces in Guernsey.
- Set up a RADAR key scheme for accessible toilets around the island.
- Assisted the Traffic Committee to implement a Blue Badge scheme.
- Worked with the Housing Committee to create Guernsey’s first accessible social housing units at Rodley Park.
Although Dave was involved in many different campaigns to improve access in Guernsey, the one that he was most proud to have contributed to was the ramp up to the market square. This was a complex project as it involved a listed building and the relocation of an entire electricity sub-station.
Dave became the Vice-Chair of the Guernsey Disability Alliance in 2008 and was our inspiration and our mentor. He stood out because of his positive, calm, yet resolutely determined, nature. He was always polite and understated, patiently and diligently explaining over and over again why things needs to change for islanders with disabilities. This approach was particularly appropriate for Guernsey where loudly-voiced views are often resisted on principle.
Dave Purdy was a gentleman, in every sense of the word, and a great Guernseyman. Islanders with disabilities, visitors with disabilities to the island and parents with buggies have much to thank him for. A commemorative plaque in honour of Dave’s achievements was unveiled by the then-Bailiff, Sir Geoffrey Rowland, on the Market Square ramp in November 2011.