Phil Downs spent his childhood on the outskirts of Manchester and chose the Metropolitan Police as a career option, starting as a cadet at the age of 16 (in 1972). By the time he reached 18 he had a life changing injury when performing a somersault during the rehearsal of a display, a performance intended for The Queen.
Phil suffered an injury to his spinal cord and was instantly paralysed from the shoulders down. He was able to speak and breathe but something was clearly amiss because nothing else would move. Lying on the floor of the gymnasium he waited for the ambulance crew, was carried downstairs into the ambulance which took him to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore.
The emergency treatment was uncomfortable for anyone to experience but Phil’s main concern was not understanding how he could break his neck and still be alive! Prior to this injury he had always thought breaking your neck involved instant death!
Fast-forward 45 years and you have a situation whereby Phil works and pays a mortgage like anyone else, been married and got the T-shirt etc! Phil was lucky enough to get disability on the football agenda in the late 80’s at his favourite club, Manchester United and became their Disability Liaison Officer.
The connection with football earned Phil an MBE in 2004 for his ‘services to disabled people’ but during the process Phil really began to discover how difficult everyday life could be without good access… good access became a target for him to achieve!
Even now, Phil is in the process of negotiating with his MP to raise the issue of slow progress in terms of access and inclusion. Too few changes are evident despite the Disability Discrimination Act and the Equality Act. As he looks around he doesn’t see much looking back at him to say access has improved, not good enough for the 21st century in Phil’s opinion!