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The APDA story

This blog from Anna Denham, discusses the work of our Together Fund partner Asian People’s Disability Alliance.

On Tuesday 19th April, following the long Easter weekend, my return to work kicked off with a delightful visit to the Asian People’s Disability Alliance (APDA) in Harlesden, northwest London. Due to various Covid-related issues, this was the third date we’d scheduled in.

But third time lucky, it definitely turned out to be.

A home from home

Zeenat, the Chief Executive Officer at APDA informed me it was the busiest the centre had been in a long while. So I met lots of the organisation’s clients and staff. It was also perfect timing to join in the fun Dosti Dance session funded by Sport England’s Tackling Inequalities Fund (now called Together Fund), administered by Disability Rights UK.

However, before I did either, Zeenat and her colleagues welcomed me into their office with a cup of tea and some biscuits, whilst they told me a bit about the organisation’s history, how it all started, and why they are based where they are in Harlesden.

Zeenat also gave me an overview of their work and some of the challenges they face as a local Deaf and Disabled People’s User Led Organisation (DDPO).

How it all began

Although their centre is based in Harlesden, The Asian People’s Disability Alliance supports Deaf and Disabled people living across the London Borough of Brent and some neighbouring boroughs. The need for this User Led Organisation grew from recognising that Disabled people require culturally appropriate and sensitive services from mainstream providers.

APDA started its own services to bridge the gap in the market for Asian Disabled and older people and their Carers. Like other DDPOs, APDA provides advice and advocacy support and inputs into policy campaigns and provides Home Care and Day Care services.

They do so much more than I could ever tell you about here, including celebrating lots of cultural and religious festivals. So please look around the Asian People’s Disability Alliance ( website to find out more for yourself, is highly recommended.

The reality on the ground as a DDPO

The reality on the ground as a DDPO

Something that has really stayed with me is something Zeenat said about smaller DDPOs such as APDA. She explained that they often compete with larger organisations, some of which are not User Led. They compete for local authority contracts to deliver sports and physical activity.

It seems such a shame and a missed opportunity that smaller organisations, such as APDA, often miss out to larger organisations on the opportunity to deliver contracts. And then have little choice but to rely on grants such as the Together Fund, to be able to offer physical activity to their clients.

I was impressed at how much choice APDA offers its clients. They can dance, yoga, keep fit, and do various games-based activities at two local leisure centres. They also co-produced their physical activity offers with their clients and so much thought and planning goes into it. And they continually learn from and adapt projects as they need to.

“This is our second home”.

APDA client

After our chat, I went into the main hall and joined in the dancing led by Step Change Studios. It was brilliant fun! The music was great – you couldn’t help but want to dance – and the instructor was so talented.

People could join in either seated or standing, and she explained and demonstrated the dance moves so clearly. There were props involved for some of the dances, and slower routines to compensate for the more energetic ones. It didn’t feel like exercise, but an opportunity to just be yourself and have fun among friends.

Zeenat told me that “Dosti” means friendship, so it is very aptly named. When the music stopped in between each track and I had to catch my breath, I realised it was actually a workout!

Eventually, I had to leave to head to the office for an afternoon appointment. I was sad to leave, as I’d been looking forward to visiting for a few months, and the visit definitely did not disappoint. I had felt the warm welcome of this organisation as soon as I walked through its doors – it’s hard to put into words, but it just felt comfortable and homely. And it wasn’t just me who felt that warmth.

Just before I left, one of the clients I was speaking with explained to me, “This is our second home”.

Next Steps

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