“Changes” is an East Dunbartonshire advocacy group supported by Independent Advocacy Provider, Ceartas. The group come together on a regular basis to discuss issues in their local community. This year the group have decided to focus on Health & Social Care; Feeling Safe; Community Connections and Accessibility as their key themes.
More recently the group have been looking at access within their local communities and how this can be hampered by poor surface conditions; pavement furniture and inconsiderate parking. The group spent some time discussing the impact that each of these had on their lives and taking pictures of their local area as examples of obstacles which prevent them from fully accessing their community.
“When going to the nearest bus stop in my wheelchair, I often have to go in the middle of the road as cars are parked on the pavement on both sides blocking my access”(Changes Member)
For many individuals with disabilities a day out requires a great deal of planning and is not something that can be done spontaneously. This is often made worse by obstacles placed in their way.
“I can’t go to the shops on bin day as I cannot get my mobility scooter around the bins on the pavements” (Changes member)
Fear is also an obstacle to people accessing their communities; there is a fear of being unable to navigate busy or cluttered streets and pavements; there is a fear of being unable to access the information required to plan a journey and there is also the fear of stigma and discrimination.
For people with a physical disability barriers can include anything from lack of physical access to street furniture, potholes and inconsiderate pavement parking. For those with learning disabilities or mental health conditions the clutter and noise of the local area can be a sensory minefield.
“A sense of relief when I turn the corner at the bottom of the road and see no cars blocking my way to the pedestrian crossing” (Changes Member)
Not all disabilities are visible and the barriers can be many, travel and access to their local communities can be full of barriers as communities are rarely set up to be totally inclusive. We are getting better at things like step free access but there are other barriers beyond this.
What we found:
The group identified the following issues as barriers to accessing their local community:
- Wheelie Bins/Pavement furniture
- Potholes and uneven surfaces
- Lack of dropped Kerbs
- Dropped Kerbs being blocked
- Inconsiderate parking
- Access is not always about physical obstacles
- Lack of information about bus and transport services out with the local area
- Attitudes of public: name calling, vulnerability
What we would like to see happen:
- Improved information
- Involve people with disabilities in consultation
- Awareness raising sessions on disability across the local community
- “Disabled Friendly” community
- A programme of improvement
- An end to “pavement parking” locally
Changes members are aware that physical changes to the community can take time and resources to implement; however, they also feel that there are things that can be done to improve and enhance access to the local area with little financial outlay. They would welcome the opportunity to work alongside council officers and others to explore ways in which awareness could be raised with the general public; consider disability awareness training to businesses from the perspective of those affected by these issues and to be involved in future consultations around information provision and changes to the physical environment.
The group have taken, and included, some pictures which give an idea of just some of the issues they face.
Thoughts on our report would be most welcome and the group would be delighted to meet and discuss further in person.