Monday, November 30, 2009

British Mayor takes a spin in wheelchair to learn about disability access

From the Craven Herald in the UK:

Skipton’s mayor was among town councillors who have been given an insight into the difficulties faced by disabled people.

In an effort to improve disabled access in Skipton, they were pushed in wheelchairs around the town.

The exercise, led by the Skipton Renaissance Team, involved the Mayor, Coun Chris Harbron (pictured), and fellow councillors Andy Solloway and Robert Heseltine following popular routes most likely to be taken by visitors or shoppers.

All three routes started from the town hall car park and were put together with the help of Skipton and Craven Action for Disability (SCAD), Craven Walkers and the Skipton and Craven branch of the MS Society.

As well as the wheelchair users, a group of mothers with pushchairs accompanied the group to show it was not just disabled people who faced difficulties.

John Dawson, chairman of the Skipton Renaissance Team, which promotes the regeneration of the town, said it was a very useful exercise.

“Our team has looked at the issues for the disabled before and felt that this exercise brought home to councillors and others the problems faced by the disabled in Skipton and some possible solutions.”

After the push, the councillors met up with disabled people and carers at the Otley Road Youth and Community Centre where they discussed their findings.

Mr Dawson said: “There was a very positive discussion which led to the suggestion of many possible actions in the town to improve accessibility and facilities for children and parents.”

Coun Andy Solloway, a member of a Craven District Council working party currently looking at facilities for disabled people in the town, told last week’s overview and scrutiny committee meeting that improvements did not have to be costly.

He told the meeting that signs directing wheelchair users to accessible routes could be a way forward.

And he added that although some parts of the town were very accessible – such as Craven Court and the canalside – others were not.

“The High Street is almost like the Berlin Wall as far as a lot of people are concerned, but improving signage would be quite an easy way forward,” he said.

Coun Solloway said it was important that action should be taken and not that possible improvements were just talked about.

He also pointed out that a lot of additional people became temporary wheelchair users after breaking a limb.

“It we make it accessible for disabled people, we make it accessible for all people,” he said.

“It’s not just people in wheelchairs, it’s also people with pushchairs and also the temporarily disabled, and they find out just how inaccessible some areas are.”