I have been going to the Whitfield Centre for the Society for the Blind centre for as long as I can remember. The centre is nearly a hundred years old and that is a great achievement.
However the future is looking bleak for the centre.
The blind and visually impaired people of Dewsbury, Batley and district have been regularly attending the building on Soothill for a long time and it’s been a vital part of not just their lives but also the wider community in general for many years.
As a young person myself I believe the centre provides a valuable service which is slowly been stripped away. I’m extremely saddened by the fact that the centre may be no longer with the Society and that would be a great shame because thousands of members, staff and volunteers have got great memories and emotions and have worked extremely hard for years to establish the place into a crucial corner stone of the society in this area.
Some people just think it’s a building but it’s more than that – it’s a community of people which come together to help the disabled and elderly, it provides support, it provides company, nurtures ability, builds confidence, creates bonds and friendships, gives a purpose and enhances quality of life.
The centre needs to survive not only for the people with visual impairment, but for the whole of the local area. It gives the area an identity and also shows that their community is looking out for and caring for the disabled which is a big achievement in itself.
A rebranding of the centre may be needed to reach out further than the local community and it also needs to attract younger people with a visual impairment because these are, after all, the future of the centre. If the centre does close the most likely outcome is that houses will be built on the site which would be a great shame because the area has lost a service that they might never get back.
So let’s stand up and be counted and make sure a part of this community stays alive, otherwise the people of this area will have lost not only a tradition but a great supportive service run by highly dedicated committed staff and a centre with the above mentioned abundance of qualities.
STEVEN JAMES DOWNES
A member of the Society For The Blind of Dewsbury, Batley and District.