Living With Disability? The William Merritt Centre Is There To Help

The William Merritt Disabled Living Centre, based in Leeds 12, is a charitable organisation which provides impartial information, advice and assessment on equipment and practical aspects of daily living for disabled people of all ages, their carer’s, and older people. Everybody is welcome at the centre which is run by a team of professionals and volunteers who all work hard to create a friendly and caring environment. Most services are free of charge and whatever your disability, the centre is there to help you get the most out of life and reach your full potential.

The centre was named after Councillor William Merritt S.R.N., R.M.N. He worked in general nursing and his main interest in the Council was in Social Services. In 1953 he pioneered the development of the City’s ‘Welfare Scheme for the Disabled’.

During his time as Chairman of the Social Services Committee the proposal to launch the Centre was presented in 1979. Sadly, William Merritt died before the Centre opened in 1981. It was agreed that the centre should bear his name in recognition of his work for disabled people over many years.

Today, the centre offers a variety of services for people living with disabilities.

Driving and Mobility

The Mobility service was introduced over 15 years ago. An accredited member of the Forum of Mobility Centres, and covering the whole of Yorkshire, the team of therapists and approved driving instructors at the centre are able to help in a number of ways. Driving assessments can be carried out (if you hold a valid driving licence) to assess driving ability with and without vehicle adaptations, with the opportunity to try out various adaptations if necessary. For passengers, Occupational Therapists and Driver Assessors can help to identify appropriate types of vehicle and transfer equipment to enable users to get in and out of the vehicle more easily. The therapists at William Merritt are able to advise and support the process of applying for vehicles using the Motability Scheme, and can also carry out assessments for air travel too.

Other services include advice on powered wheelchairs, scooters and wheelchair/scooter stowage.

Adult Services

As well as the mobility and driving support services available at William Merritt, they also offer professional assessments and advice on independent living. These assessments are free of charge and you do not have to be referred by your GP or health professional to access them. Covering all aspects of your daily life from the bathroom to the garden, the centre has a wide range of specialist equipment for you to try. This includes furniture such as profiling beds and recliner chairs to accessories to make your life easier such as one handed tin openers for the kitchen and long handled tools for the garden.

Stairlift clinics are also held once a month.

Paediatric Services

The William Merritt Disabled Living Centre provide assessments for disabled children and those with life limiting illness from birth to 19 years of age. As the centre does not sell anything, they are able to offer independent and impartial advice on your equipment needs and can write reports to support applications should you need to apply for charitable funding. Individual assessments can be arranged on a wide range of equipment including bathing and toileting, car seats, supportive seating and buggies. This service ensures that you can make an informed choice to meet the needs of your child and yourself.

Various clinics are also held at the centre. The car seat clinic is held offsite 4-6 times per year when your child’s postural needs, the stability of the chosen seat in your vehicle and any manual handling issues are assessed by the Paediatric

Occupational Therapists. Tricycle clinics are held in safe and spacious venues which enable the children to trial adapted tricycles. These are arranged on a regular basis. Also, your child’s physiotherapist can request a walker clinic, where a variety of walkers are brought in by children’s equipment companies. The physiotherapist will attend this clinic with you for your child to trial the different walkers available and find the one that best meets their individual needs.

The Switches project offers assessments and advice on the latest technology such as computers, iPod’s and accessible gaming.


The centre delivers training courses and they have a full and varied calendar with courses running at various times throughout the year. These courses are ideal for care professionals, school support staff and home carers alike, they include subjects such as Moving and Handling for trainers, Wheelchair handling and Moving and Handling for Children. As well as practical and management strategies, guidelines and legislation are also discussed where applicable. The cost varies dependent on the course, information on this and the dates/times they are running is available on the website, along with how to book a place.

William Merritt Hold GameBlast 15 Day


As well as offering the comprehensive list of services that they do, William Merritt Disabled Living Centre also run special events when the opportunity arises. One such event that happened recently was GameBlast 15. 

This was a nationwide gaming event to transform the lives of gamers with disabilities with the help of Special Effect. Special Effect are a gamer’s charity who help people with disabilities to play video games, putting fun, inclusion and confidence back into their lives.

A team of gamers each did a stint in the 24 hour game marathon, collectively playing from noon on Friday 20th of February until noon on Saturday 21st February. The team were sponsored, and hope to raise a fantastic amount of money to enable Special Effect to help many more people. So far, through the coffee morning and raffle that was held on the Saturday, along with general donations they have raised £161.

Jamie Hanley, Parliamentary Candidate for Pudsey, also joined in with Gameblast15 after being invited by two participants who he joined on Disabled Access Day last month.

He said “It was fantastic to see such a wide variety of equipment such as foot switches, eye-gaze and head switches being used to assist people with physical disabilities to use all of the top video and PC games.

 “The staff at the William Merritt Centre do not believe that anything is unachievable in terms of assistive technology and in hosting a Gameblast15 event, they are spreading the important message that anyone of any ability can take part in what they enjoy doing.”

 David Blythe, General Manager at the William Merritt Centre, thought the event had been a great success, and said “Thanks for everyone for coming, it’s been a fantastic event. I’m hoping we can do more of these events so that young people can come down and join in with gaming.”

 Colin McDonnell, who was taking part in the Game-a-thon, said “It was a great 24 hours and lots of money has been raised for Special Effect. Thanks to everyone who took part and came along on the day and supported us.”

Our Yorkshire Reporter photographer Stuart also attended GameBlast15 and spoke to people at the event.

Susan McDonnell, Colin’s mum, said of William Merritt Disabled Living Centre:

“There’s been a huge difference in Colin since coming here. It now means he can join in with the rest of the family in everyday things like playing computer games. He’s better at the games than most of us now. It gives him a great sense of achievement. The difference socially is fantastic. It encourages friendships with others and has encouraged him to do things. For example because of the facility we can now go as a family abroad on holiday. Another thing is that the centre also offers impartial advice which is so important to parents”

Lily May, Colin’s niece added:

“It allows us to play games together at home which means that Colin can now be part of my world too”

Stuart also spoke to Paula, an Occupational Therapist at the centre who told him “We take lots of things for granted but the centre helps people to be included socially. For example they can use mobile phones and stay in touch with all their friends. They can text and be online. It was a great source of frustration for them before when they couldn’t do any of these things. It has opened up a whole new world.”

Another event that the centre have planned is happening on the 2nd July at the Radisson Hotel in Leeds starting at 4pm. This is a presentation evening where health professionals and strategic partners will gather along with health care providers and manufacturers to showcase all they are able to offer to improve the lives of people living with disability.

You can contact William Merritt Disabled Living Centre for information, advice or to book assessments:

The Disabled Living Centre

St. Mary’s Hospital, Green Hill Road, Armley, LS12 3QE

Tel: 0113 350 8989 Email:

You can also visit their website for more information at Or follow them on Twitter: @WMDLC


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