LYME Regis tourism chief Cheryl Reynolds has teamed up with Guitars On The Beach for an open arms welcome for the family of a young disabled woman, who had been put off visiting the town by hurtful jibes when using her parking badge on the seafront.
The Somerset family said they were being deterred from their regular visits to Lyme by catty comments from passers-up when they used their blue badge to park on the Cart Road, so that their 19-year-old daughter could take in the view.
Because the young woman, who suffers from severe arthritis, does not look disabled, some people loudly voiced in earshot that her family had no right to park there.
In a plea made for more understanding, the young woman’s mother said: “For my daughter it is a mixture of anger and embarrassment. She is 19, she doesn’t need this.
“It is hard enough for her having to deal with not being able to do what her friends can, without people accusing her of making up a disability. She has arthritis in her jaw, elbows, fingers, hips, knees, all over her body.”
When Guitars On The Beach organisers heard the story, they immediately offered the family the opportunity to experience the best of Lyme’s hospitality. The teenager has now been invited as a VIP guest to the hugely-popular music festival.
“We were horrified that this young woman and her family had suffered cruel comments from a small-minded minority who do not properly represent Lyme, which is in the main caring and thoughtful about disabled people,” said a GOTB spokesman.
“Because a lot of disabled people do not look disabled it is perhaps easy for some to jump to the wrong conclusion and not be considerate. We did not want this family to feel that Lyme was not the big-hearted town that it is, so we have invited them to be our VIP guests at this year’s big gig on June 16th.
“We are arranging for them to have priority parking near to the stage and we will fix it so that this young lady can be as close to the music as she likes. She can meet the bands and if she wants to join in the mass playalong we’ll get her a guitar too.”
Councillor Reynolds, chairman of the town council’s Tourism, Community & Publicity Committee, is also planning to pull out the stops so that the family enjoy a day to remember. She has organised for the teenager to have use of the town’s new beach wheelchair, especially adapted to go on the sand, and will personally welcome the family to the town.
Councillor Reynolds said: “I will be more than happy to help this young lady and her family and make her day at Guitars on the Beach as accessible as possible. I’m sure we can arrange some great things for her to see and do to show her how much Lyme Regis cares for everyone.”
And in a personal letter to the family, Councillor Reynolds wrote: “You really will be welcome at Guitars on the Beach. Anything we can do to make your day a really good one, please just tell us and we will make it happen.
“Lyme is a town that would hate anyone with a problem to be frowned on. So please come and enjoy yourselves and we promise to look after you.”
The young woman’s mum replied: “As a family we are very touched by such a nice gesture which was totally unexpected and would love to attend. Our daughter was really surprised and is looking forward to it.
“She has now come to a decision that she wants to set in motion more awareness of children and young adults with her condition, as it is an invisible disability that not only causes so much physical pain but very commonly emotional distress and depression as the child reaches maturity, due to the physical and social restrictions caused by the pain and high-level medications which means that they can’t do everything their peers do.”