Campaigner marks 35 years changing the lives of disabled people
- Credit: Mick Howes
A disability campaigner is marking 35 years making a difference and changing the lives of disabled people.
Margaret Oldham, 74, has been working with disabled people in Lowestoft since 1986, currently holding down the role of Chair of Disability Advice North East Suffolk, which she helped to set up 35 years ago.
She is also chair of Lowestoft Shopmobility, which she has worked for in some capacity for the past 25 years.
Mrs Oldham has been working to give disabled people more control over their lives through her work with Disability Advice and has been working to make sure they have means of transport through her work at Lowestoft Shopmobility.
She is also a member of the Waveney Disability Forum and secretary for Disabled Motoring UK.
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Manchester born and bred, Mrs Oldham reflected on the reasons why she initially decided to help disabled people.
She said: "When I was 18 I had to go to hospital because I fell down some stairs and landed against a wall when I was wearing stilettos.
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"As a result of that fall I have had 14 operations and aged 27 the doctors said I had osteoarthritis which causes pain, swelling and problems moving my joints.
Margaret and her husband Lez, who is also 74, decided to move away from Manchester to start a new life somewhere green for themselves.
Margaret said: "Lez and I travelled around the whole country because we decided to run a newsagents together.
"We have three children so we were looking to run a newsagents which was also part of a house.
"We arrived in Lowestoft and found a 3 bed newsagent for sale on Clapham Road.
"I slowly got bored of the job though, it just wasn't for me, I wanted something more.
"One day I was out swimming at Waterlane Leisure Centre and I came across a woman called Gillian Brouch, who told me I should get involved and help disabled people.
"From that moment on, I didn't look back. Gill is in her late 80s now."
During her time working in Lowestoft, Margaret also set up the Waveney Centre for Independent Living in 1992, which was an organisation to help disabled people live independently.
Margaret said: "I set up Waveney Centre for Independent Living after going to London and seeing similar organisations set up there.
"There was not anything similar at the time in East Anglia.
"Sadly Suffolk County Council disbanded it eight years ago though which was a shame."
However, Mrs Oldham has been a trailblazer during her time in Lowestoft, helping the most vulnerable.
She was made an MBE in 2011 for her services to disabled people.
She said: "I have seen and come across people who really needed help, whether that was with housing, shopping, anything really.
"My aim has been to give disabled people their independence back and I hope I have made a positive impact on their lives.
"People have come up to me in the past and said 'I have had a stroke, I can't drive anymore.' My role is to reassure them that they can get their independence back.
"People have come up to me in Lowestoft and said 'you have given me my life back' and that always means so much."
Now, Mrs Oldham has been nominated for a role with the National Organisation for Disabled People so that she can implement disability policy at a national level.
She said: "The beauty of being involved nationally is that I can take issues people have faced locally in Lowestoft and address them at a national level.
"We are also currently in the process of finding additional volunteers for Disability Advice.
"So many people have helped me along the way through all of this as well. I could not have achieved all this myself.
"I want to say a huge thank you to my husband Lez. Without him, I couldn't have done all this."