Now hear this...
The congregation of an Uphall church are soon to be involved in some loopy goings-on.
For St Nicholas Parish Church has just been awarded £1000 by the West Lothian Access Committee.
And it's hoped the money will be spent making the Sunday sermon a joy to hear.
A number of hearing-impaired regulars had complained that they were missing out.
But thanks to the introduction of an induction loop system, allowing hearing aid users to tune into a specified frequency and have the sermon delivered direct, the problem will soon become a thing of the past. Re-wiring work to the building is now underway and it is hoped to have the system up and running within a few weeks.
That's the new community transport initiative launched this week by the West Lothian Voluntary Council or Disabled People.
A 14-seater, specially adapted minibus offers low-cost travel to groups and organisations in the district, with priority given to those who work with or include disabled people. The vehicle can either be hired self-drive or with a driver and escort.
Disabled fans will have no problem in cheering on their heroes at Livingston FC's new £4 million stadium.
For BT have put up £5000 to guarantee 67 of them free entry and spaces.
Kenny Higgins, on the left of our picture, is the BT manager who organised the deal. Next to him are Andrew Baird, chairperson of West Lothian Council for Disabled People, and colleague Gordon Mungall with one of the supporters who will benefit, Pete Dickson.
Although there are still hopes that the stadium will be handed over in time for Livingston's October 28th game against Arbroath, it now looks more likely that November 11th, when East Stirlingshire provide the opposition will mark the launch.
The gamble's paid off for the West Lothian Voluntary Council for the Disabled.
Because they've come up trumps after a flutter on the National Lottery scooped them a tidy £31,350.
Planning to spend the handout on a much-needed 14-seater minibus, delighted group secretary Andrew Baird told the world: "Thanks to the National Lottery Charities Board we can now afford to put broad smiles on lots of faces."
West Lothian Access Committee have awarded Fauldhouse Cricket Club a grant of £1000 to assist in the conversion of existing toilets to a unisex accessible toilet at the club premises in Victoria Road.
The Access Fund is sponsored and administered by West Lothian District Council and the West Lothian Voluntary Council for Disabled People.
Fund-raising has finally paid off
Two years of fund-raising by West Lothian Voluntary Council for Disabled People has finally paid off - with the installation of a £13,500 stair-lift at their premises in Hopetoun Lane, Bathgate.
Company secretary Marlyn Young said: "Our fund-raising efforts began as soon as we moved here because even though the ground floor was three time bigger than our previous home in Jarvey Street, we immediately recognised the desirability of making the top floor fully accessible.
It wasn't easy because the cost of the lift kept going up and our target always seemed just out of reach, but we're all delighted that our aim has now been fully achieved".
Marlyn added: "The improved facility will provide greater training opportunities, especially in computing and should also lead to increased membership of groups supported by the organisation."
In addition to general fundraising activities, cash for the stair-lift came from The Charles Hayward Trust, Levi Community Involvement Team in Whitburn and the Disablement Advisory Service.
Two youth organisations have been given £1000 grants to help make life easier for the disabled.
West Lothian Area Scout Council provided a ramp and more accessible toilets at their Craigs Camping and Training Centre near Torphichen.
And the Girl Guide Association will include similar facilities when they upgrade the guide hall in Linlithgow.
The grants came from the West Lothian Access Fund, which is sponsored and administered by the district council and West Lothian Voluntary Council for Disabled People. Commercial companies can get up to half the cost of projects, and non-commercial groups up to 75 per cent, up to a maximum of £1000. And the fund is available for all premises in public use, including shops, restaurants, pubs, hotels, offices and sports, community and recreational facilities. For more information about the fund, contact secretary Andrew Baird at West Lothian Access Committee.
Daredevil Helan Kane leapt 2,000 feet from an aeroplane for charity - and landed on a £1,000 target.
Helen (19), from Addiewell, is a rental operator with Vauxhall dealership Woods of West Calder.
She made her parachute jump as part of the Vauxhall Combo Challenge which encourages dealerships to raise more than £775 - a pound for every kilogram of the Vauxhall Combo Van's payload.
The money raised will help the Macmillan Nurses and the NSPCC.
For Helen, who jumped after only one day's training at the Stirling Parachute Centre, it was a dream come true.
"I've always wanted to do a parachute jump," she said. "Ijust never found the time to do it before. It was nerve-racking but I'll definitely do it again - especially if I could raise another £1,000."
Tom Woods, principal dealer, is proud of Helen.
"She showed a lot of courage to do the jump," he told the Courier, "and I'm pleased that the local people got behind her to raise the money."
Access Fund brings new sound to deaf aids
Secretary of West Lothian Access Committee Andrew Baird and vice-chairman Gordon Mungall present Linlithgow Film Society's chairman Bob Henderson with a cheque for £595.
The cash will be used to finance an induction loop system in Linlithgow Burgh North Hall, which will greatly improve the acoustics for hearing aid users.
This is the latest grant support to be handed out by the Access Committee, which is made up of individuals and representatives in the field of disability to promote better accessibility to places in West Lothian.
Mr Baird told the World - "Through our links with West Lothian District Council, we are able to make disbursements through the Access Fund to help finance various improvements."
He explained that the induction loop is a special system which allows people with hearing aids to better hear sound reproduction in a hall being used as a theatre or cinema.
And he added - "We are at present carrying out an access survey of places of entertainment including hotels, restaurants and other leisure outlets with a view to publishing a guide to such places for the disabled.
It's said the Craigshill Mall is being sold to a developer, but one wonders how this can benefit shoppers there, when it was built so baddly in the beginning.
With unlimited ground at their disposal the Mall was squeezed in so close to the school and library buildings that no room was left for parking. Why? Access to the immediate area of the loading bay has been stopped, so where do elderly and disabled people park as the only public spaces are limited at the Health Centre, and anyway the distance can be too far for some.
There is plenty parking space at the other side of the Mall, but access is up a number of steps beside the Post Office...again an impediment to so many elderly / disabled who depend on the PO.
Then again, why are there only three disabled spaces at the Kwiksave and why are there no prominant warning notices stopping selfish drivers from using the disabled bays already there? It causes so much stress for genuinely unfit people, when we have to push a trolley to the school parking area, as I did twice last week, while cars without orange badges hogged the reserved bays.
Claims that the pavements in Bathgate are not meeting the needs of wheelchair users are to be investigated by the West Lothian Access Committee for the Disabled.
Bathgate man Joe Duff complained to the Courier that the town's walkways were too high and that in places there is not enough room for wheelchair access.
Joe, whose wife Wilma is confined to a wheelchair, rapped: "The way we are treated is terrible, I have to lift my wife's chair up and down off pavements all round the town."
Wilma chipped in: "I get scared coming down pavements, it's very frightening. More pavements should be lowered."
Joe, himself registered disabled, added that compared to Edinburgh, facilities in West Lothian are terrible: "In Edinburgh there are a lot more lowered kerbs and its easy to get on and off the train. Here you have to lift the chair up and down."
A spokesperson for Lothian Regional Council said that they are keen to identify areas that needed work done adding that more lowered pavements were being created out with the capital.
The West Lothian Access Committee met on Tuesday afternoon and resolved to look into the matter further. Secretary Andrew Baird said: "We'll now go out and look at some specific problem areas with disabled residents." he said. "Then perhaps some kerbs will be lowered."
Jamie Andrew Award Winners
TWO volunteers who have helped people with disabilities to embrace computer technology have each won a special award.
Frank Sinclair and Graham Thompson picked up the Jamie Andrew Personal Achievement Award for their popular IT training sessions.
The pair offer training within the West Lothian Ability Centre.
Both men are also part of the Discom Charity, which reconditions and distributes computers free of charge to people with disabilities throughout the county.
Although they have their own health issues to deal with, Frank and Graham selflessly help other people embrace PCs, build their own websites, and even gain IT qualifications.
There were eight nominations for this year's Jamie Andrew Award, which aims to further the equality and social inclusion of people with disabilities. The award honours the outstanding achievements of people with disabilities living in West Lothian and recognises the contribution they make to the community.
Established in 2003 during the European Year of People with disabilities, it takes its name from the mountaineer who lost his hands and feet in a climbing accident.
Graeme Morrice, Leader of West Lothian Council, said: "I would like to congratulate Frank and Graham on receiving the Jamie Andrew Award.
Since the Ability Centre opened in 2001 they have shared their skills to help others develop computing skills, which can prove invaluable in the work place."
Work starts on showpiece building at Carmondean
Work has just begun on a flagship £1.7 million centre for people with disabilities in West Lothian.
The new Carmondean Ability Centre in Livingston will offer a range of services for people with a variety of problems.
And it will house a host of agencies and organisations to help carers with their inquiries.
Members of the public will be encouraged to visit the centre, which has been specially designed for people with profound disabilities.
Councillor Heather Smart, convener of West Lothian Council's community services committee, welcomed the start of work on the project, which is due to be completed by the end of next year.
She said: "This is a unique, innovative and exciting project.
The design of the new centre reflects a bold, positive and inclusive vision of a disability service.
It also demonstrates an up-to-date and carefully developed approach to designing and building and providing services for people with profound disabilities."
The centre will be a base for groups including West Lothian Council's Day Opportunities Service, West Lothian Community Rehabilitation and Brain injury Service, the local housing office, council information service and Disability West Lothian.
An innovative plan has been launched to promote equal opportunities for people with disabilities.
West Lothian Council's Disability Equality Scheme aims to eliminate discrimination and harassment against people with disabilities by promoting equality between those with and without a disability.
The plan, which was developed in close partnership with disability West Lothian, Mental Health Advocacy (West Lothian) and Ace Advocacy, strives to:
Promote positive attitudes towards people with disabilities.
Encourage participation by people with disabilities in public life.
Take steps to meet the needs of people with disabilities, even if this requires more favourable treatment.
To create the strategy, the council established a Disability Equality Scheme Forum to allow residents with disabilities to have their say in the preparation of the scheme. The forum will also be involved in assessing the impact of functions, policies, and activities on disability equality.
The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 places a duty on all public authorities to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people and to eliminate discrimination.
QUADRUPLE amputee Jamie Andrew clained yesterday it was easier to climb to the top of Africa's highest mountain than get around Edinburgh. He said scaling the 19,335ft-high Mount Kilimanjaro was 'trivial' compaired to learning to look after himself again after has hands and feet were amputated.
Mr Andrew, 34 (pictured), who scaled the Tanzanian mountain despite losing all four limbs to frostbite, joined delagates at a conference to discuss changes in disability law. He revealed how he was shocked when, just after losing his limbs, he tried to get around his home city in a wheelchair only to find shops and banks inaccessible.
Mr Andrew said: 'I went from being a very active person to being in a wheelchair. It was a big shock to be put in a position where you have to deal with that. It is surprising how poor provision in a capital city like Edinburgh is for wheelchair users. If you are in a modern building you are fine, but go somewhere older, to a bank or to a shop, and you find yourself confronted with a step. It's as good as a wall.'
He said he now faces his biggest challenge yet, with his wife expected to give birth at the end of March.
Royal Bank winners of Good Access Award
Going to the bank is more like a mountaineering expedition for wheel-chair bound Alan Reid.
A simple three-inch step is all that's needed to turn a trip to a high street bank into the equivalent of a climb up the north face of Everest.
Like scores of disabled people in West Lothian, Alan has become the helpless victim of years of thoughtlessness by planners and architects.
Constantly denied the privileges of access to public buildings by the simple barrier of a set of steps, there was a real fear that disabled people faced exclusion from normal community life.
In stark terms, they faced a gloomy future of being virtual prisoners in their own homes.
But now the tide is turning. And groups like the Access Committee of the West Lothian Voluntary Council for Disabled people are doing their best to break down the barriers.
Their aims are twofold - to promote co-ordinated and concerted action to help disabled people, and to increase awareness of the needs of disabled people in relation to design and development processes.
And in its short existence, the committee have already taken giant strides towards improving access for the disabled, both inside and outside buildings.
Voluntary Council secretary Marlyn Young said: "When the committee was formed a year ago, we were under no illusions as to the scale and nature of the problem."
"However in this short time, access improvements to restaurants and supermarkets have taken place."
The main reason these businesses have been jolted into action has been the committee's no-holds-barred "Good Access" awards survey. And last week it was the turn of West Lothian's banks to come under savage scrutiny.
But the survey revealed a sorry state of services for the disabled.
Most banks have no access arrangements for people in wheelchairs. And even if they get past the front door, they end up faced with unsuitable writing desks and encounter staff who have had no training in dealing with the disabled, including those with hearing and sight problems.
"But authorities and businesses are coming round and they seem to be doing what they can to help".
The winner of the good access award was the royal Bank of Scotland in Livingston's Almondvale Centre. It was chosen because of its low dispenser, wide doors and helpful staff.
Royal Bank winners of Good Access Award
The Courier is set to get a whole new collection of readers - or rather listeners.
Instead of coming in its normal tabloid form, your favourite local newspaper will be packaged in four inches by two inches box.
For the Courier is to provide the backbone for West Lothian's first talking newspaper for the blind.
And last week the project organisers had their first trial run at producing the paper, to be called the West Lothian Boomerang. And if all goes well the first edition should be "hitting the streets" in May.
RECORDED A talking newspaper is simply an hour-long cassette recording of local news and gossip. It is packed in a special wallet and posted free to blind people to play on their own cassette recorder, before being returned for the next edition.
"The service is aimed at blind and partially sighted people and others who find reading a strain," explained project chair Yvonne Taylor.
"This method of communication helps people who are visually impaired from feeling isolated in their own communities."
POOL Each week a copy of the Courier will be edited and recorded onto tape in the studios of CRAWL, Community Radio Association West Lothian. This is then reproduced on a high-speed copier to be sent out to everyone on the Boomerang's mailing list.
Said Yvonne: "At the moment we will just be using the main stories from the Courier as well as the births, deaths and marriages and public notices.
But once we get really off the ground, I plan to start including interviews and features as well as information on things such as road closures and issues affecting blind people."
A committee and pool of readers to produce the Boomerang, which is a completely independent body, have now been formed. But the main concern for them is to raise money to allow the project to continue.
"I have been given an initial supply of 50 tapes and wallets plus a loan of a high-speed copier. However, we will need to raise enough money to buy our own copier, costing some £2000, plus around 150 tapes and wallets as well as money for other overheads.
We will shortly be writing to public and private bodies asking them to support this very worthwhile service."
Information is available from Yvonne Taylor who is willing to talk to any group or organisation about the project.
Lottery award will help disabled in job market
A GRANT from the National Lottery is helping sow the seeds for a bright new future at the Polbeth Market Garden Project.
The £48,000 award will pay for permanent training rooms and inside toilets on the site - and enable Disability West Lothian to expand the training package they offer there.
The garden project gives young people with learning difficulties a chance to obtain valuable skills and experience. Many of these youngsters face considerable problems finding work and the education they gain at Polbeth can help them compete for jobs.
First set up in 1987 with sponsorship from the former district and regional councils and the European Social Fund, it's now a well-established garden supported by the Euro cash and the new West Lothian Council.
Congratulating the project, Council Convener Joe Thomas said: "This award - and the good use to which it will be put - underlines the importance to West Lothian of maximising funding from the National Lottery.
"As a community we need to pull together - working in partnership. The council wishes to see more collaborations such as we see today - where lottery funds will help make this European and West Lothian Council-funded project more effective.
"I'm particularly happy about this award, he added: "Because it will enable Polbeth Market Garden to deliver on-site basic education as well as practical skills training."
Joining the Convener on a recent trip to the site was Livingston MP Robin Cook.
In addressing the problems facing the young and disadvantaged, the role of the community is vital, he stated. That is why I'm pleased to be visiting a project that is delivering at local level - and delighted to hear of their success in securing lottery funds."
Lazy motorists drive disabled disabled people away from shops
Selfish and lazy drivers are stealing parking bays from disabled people.
At least 20 per cent of the spaces set aside on Saturdays at Livingston's West Lothian House are nicked by drivers without an orange badge.
And drivers returning to their cars have been confrontational with parking attendants employed by Disability West Lothian to look after the car park during peak weekend shopping times.
Andrew Baird of Disability West Lothian said: "We employ two attendants to look after the car park. A times drivers can give a lot of lip when it is pointed out that the car park is designated for disabled drivers.
It can be a bit alarming at times, and police in Livingston have promised they will set up patrols." Andrew said the Almondvale Centre is short of parking spaces for disabled people, which is why West Lothian Council agreed to give over its car park exclusively for disabled drivers on Saturdays. He added: "It's hard enough for a disabled person to get out of the house, without finding there is nowhere to park once they get to the shops."
Selfish drivers, he believes, are in the minority, but there are only 30-odd places at West Lothian House. "And every week, at least 20 per cent of the spaces are taken by drivers who don't have an orange badge. West Lothian council leader Graeme Morrice said the council is working closely with Disability West Lothian and Land Securities, the owners of the Almondvale, to make life easier for disabled people."
When we discovered there was a problem with disabled parking, we were happy to turn over the council car park to disabled people at weekends.
I find it extremely annoying that irresponsible and lazy drivers are as selfish as to take parking spaces designated for orange badge holders.
WORKERS from West Lothian council were sent back to school as part of Deaf Awareness Week.
Around 40 employees were invited to Donaldson's School in Linlithgow to attend a specially tailored Deaf Awareness session this week.
Delivered be the Young Deaf Committee, made up of a group of secondary pupils from the school, the training offered hearing people an insight into the communication needs of deaf and hard of hearing people and how best to communicate in everyday situations.
The Young Deaf Committee created the training session as a tool that councils and public sector organizations all over Scotland can use. Featuring pupils aged from 15 to 19 the committee uses real-life situations as part of their course.
Focusing on the specific needs of the audience, the training aims to give individuals improved hearing awareness plus a range of communication skills such as finger spelling and British Sign Language that may help them in the course of their work.
Donaldson's is one of the seven Grant Aided Special Schools supported by the Scottish Government and is Scotland's national school for children who are deaf or have speech and language difficulties.
The school provides a bilingual environment for the pupils. It is designed specifically to meet their complex needs.
Speaking about the training course, Basic Skills Officer Billy Docherty said: "As councils and public sector workers will often meet deaf people it is essential that they know how to communicate in order to make their services accessible to all.
Our training includes a great introduction to deaf awareness and some basic communication skills. The sessions are really good fun so we are hoping more councils will take up the challenge in the future." Deaf Awareness Training is also available to other councils and public sector organisations.