Friday, January 21, 2011

Scotland reports Glasgow may not be accessible enough for 2014 Commonwealth Games planned there

From The Herald in Scotland:

Thousands of disabled spectators will not be able to watch events at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow unless more is done to cater for their needs, a Government advisory group has claimed.

The Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland attacked the lack of an “access strategy” from organisers ahead of the event, claiming that about 8000 visitors a day were likely to face difficulties with stairs and escalators.

That total includes thousands of disabled people, along with other spectators with access problems, such as parents with young children in buggies.

In evidence to Holyrood’s transport committee, Grahame Lawson, a member of the Mobility and Access Committee, which advises ministers on transport policy, said he had “serious doubts” over the provision for spectators after meeting with organisers late last year.

He contrasted their approach with that taken by organisers of London’s 2012 Olympics, who he said had met disability groups six years ahead of the event and produced an access strategy in 2008. However, Glasgow’s event team had included “less than a paragraph” in their 120-page transport strategy, he said.

“Over the duration of the Games, about 100,000 spectators will have difficulty in using stairs or escalators. What provision is being made for that? The answer seems to be very little,” Mr Lawson, a former planning official at North Lanarkshire Council, said during an evidence session.

“The Glasgow team has expertise in dealing with disabled athletes’ needs. A person has been recruited ... who has experience of that.

“I have no doubt that disabled athletes’ needs will be accommodated, but we have serious doubts about the provision for spectators.

“The Games team has indicated its willingness to engage with us, but the issue is translating that into action.”

A spokeswoman for the Glasgow 2014 Organising Committee denied that it had not properly considered accessibility issues, claiming this had been an “integral part” of their plans.

“Accessibility is an integral part of our overall plans for the Games, and has been from the outset,” she said.

“From athletes competing in a fully integrated parasport programme, to spectators using different modes of accessible public transport to get to venues, we are working with stakeholders and making good progress to ensure that people with accessibility requirements have a great experience at the Games.”

Access arrangements for disabled spectators at Hampden, Scotland’s national stadium, were being changed to ensure they had a space in the centre of the North Stand – one example of the legacy the Games would provide, the spokeswoman added.

In its 2008 access strategy for the 2012 Olympics, titled All Change, Games organisers estimated that about 7% of spectators would face difficulties using stairs or escalators.

The majority of those are thought to be disabled visitors but other groups such as parents with buggies are also likely to face access problems, Games organisers said.

Although there has been no similar exercise conducted in Glasgow, using the same ratio would mean that up to 8000 visitors a day would face access problems, Mr Lawson said.

He said it would be inappropriate to comment further when contacted by The Herald, but said his group would be raising its concerns through a formal consultation on the draft transport strategy produced by the Glasgow 2014 Organising Committee.

However, his concerns were echoed by Capability Scotland, a charity that campaigns for disabled people.

Chief executive Alan Dickson said: “High-profile events such as the Commonwealth Games present us with an unprecedented opportunity for highlighting and addressing these barriers.

“Capability would like to see the council consulting with disabled people to plan and develop an access strategy to ensure disabled athletes and spectators can fully participate in all aspects of the Commonwealth Games.

“It is crucial to ensure that the investment in this event results in a legacy of accessible facilities and a commitment from the Scottish Government to deliver sporting opportunities for all.”