Obituary: David Hart, disability rights campaigner, writer and cricket lover

David Hart
David Hart
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David Hart was born in Edinburgh on 25 July, 1966 and died on 28 August, 2017. As a boy and young teenager, he enjoyed hillwalking with his family and developed a love of nature – especially birdwatching – that he was able to pursue as an adult. In his early teens he climbed most of the big peaks in the Lake District, including Skiddaw and Helvellyn.

When he was in his late teens, however, he was diagnosed with a genetic disorder, Ataxia Telangiectasia (AT), which is low-incidence, degenerative and life-shortening. Over the remainder of his life, AT would make it increasingly difficult or impossible for him to do many things – walk, write, read, and speak clearly – but he refused to let the effects of his condition limit his ambitions and achieved a great deal in his life.

After school at James Gillespie’s High, David he went train as a nurse in Inverness, but the initial effects of AT, which affected his balance, meant that he could not complete the training.

He continued on the path into a caring profession through an access to social work course, but the effects of AT increased and it was clear that he would not be able to take on employment.

However, he used the training in a variety of ways to support others who had to deal with restrictions on their lives.

When David was in his early 20s he began to attend Firrhill – an exemplary municipal day centre that offered opportunities to people with physical disabilities to be part of a busy community, follow interests and learn new skills.

During the 25 years David attended Firrhill he worked on reception; became involved with committee work, and represented people with disabilities on a range of external bodies.

He participated in various working groups set up by the local authority looking at wider access for people with physical disabilities, partnership groups and creating a plain English guide for service users and providers. Firrhill gave David a sense of identity within the working world and opportunities to use his gifts and make a difference.

David enjoyed writing. He edited the house magazine, The Firrhill Flyer, and latterly was “a thorough and prolific reviewer” for Euan’s Guide, the online website for disabled access reviews from disabled people and their friends and families.

Through his involvement in creative writing, David came into contact with Artlink, the organisation which works to increase opportunities to take part in the arts for those who experience disadvantage or disability in the East of Scotland. In 1995 David was invited to join the board of Artlink, later becoming vice-chair and then chair.

David also had a lifelong love of cricket. He became Carlton 1st XI scorer when he was 18 and acted as scorer for six years until the progression of AT forced him to give up in 1990. He continued to be a loyal supporter of the club and enjoyed visiting Grange Loan to watch Carlton play. In spite of his difficulties, David was also widely travelled, having visited many of the countries of Europe at one time or another and getting as far as South Africa, following his love of cricket.

David was stoical in his final illness, pancreatic cancer, continuing to set the kind of example which characterised his life. His death leaves a gap in the lives of many people – family, friends and colleagues.