Disability Discrimination Act
Posted by Susan Quick
The Disability Discrimination Act, 1995, is currently under review with the aim of improving access for disabled people. You will have noticed that the new buses are equipped with a system to help people in wheelchairs get onto the bus and have a place for them to sit. Obviously this is excellent. As a disabled person I heartily endorse these moves.
However, all is not as well as it might be. The Tourist Info Centre (TIC) was moved to its current tiny building in the name of disabled access. Why couldn't a wheelchair accessible toilet and a ramped entrance have been installed in the old building? As we know, there were four huge downstairs rooms and three entrances. So wheelchair access was hardly a problem of lack of space. Of course the old TIC was worth a lot on the property market wasn't it? I believe the new TIC was built as part of a deal.
Something else which is about to happen. The Community Education Centre is moving to Mytholmroyd, to be part of the school. Again in the name of wheelchair access. OK the old building would have been impossible to convert. But was there really no other suitable buildin in Hebden? Did it have to move all the way to Mytholmroyd?
Those of us who are disabled are only entitled to one free lift a week to a Community Education class. Otherwise we have to pay for our own taxi and there is only one taxi firm - Pennine - in Halifax - that transports a person in a wheelchair. And only has access for one wheelchair and charges about £10 for a short journey within Hebden.
So, is Calderdale really doing all this in the name of 'disabled access'. Or are they just making a profit out of us - presumably the Tourist Info Centre and the Community Education Centre fetch high proces for the Council?
Posted by Margaret Butler
Unfortunately the Bill does not apply to listed buildings and many businesses in Hebden Bridge will be exempt as far as disabled access is concerned. I wish that before adapting their premises that businesses would contact organisations such as Access For All In Calderdale, who have been fighting for access for many years for the disabled, mothers with pushchairs and the elderly, and Calderdale MBC's Disabilities Liaison Officer. They have all the information, can give advice and suggest alternatives. Too many businesses and architects have provided totally unsuitable disabled adaptations in the past and I fear that this could continue. One example is a disabled toilet only accessible by climbing steps to the door. Other disabled toilets are used for storing cleaning materials etc making them totally unuseable.
In Hebden Bridge the two Dentists are only accessible by either high steps or a very narrow steep staircase. This has meant that the disabled and elderly of the area who cannot gain access have to travel to Halifax for treatment. The majority of the alternative health practitioners are also only accessible by steps as are several restaurants, take aways and other businesses. As these are in listed buildings they will remain inaccessible to many.
Calderdale MBC have plans to make the centre of HB accessible and I look forward to seeing the work completed. At the present time we have narrow footpaths, footpaths angled to such a degree that a wheelchair will be overturned using them and dangerous dropped kerbs.
I would like to appeal to the population of HB to consider their actions when parking in the centre. Blocking a dropped kerb causes distress to a disabled person who cannot then cross the road. This is very common on the corner of Carlton and Crown Street. Another hazard is cars parked on the footpath. Not only does this prevent the wheelchair proceeding along the footpath but is a great danger to those with sight impairement. A Guide Dog, coming across any footpath obstruction, will guide the person into the road and around the obstruction. I saw this happen on Holme Street where a delivery van blocks access along the footpath opposite the Post Office when it makes deliveries. I also saw elderly people having to cross the road and then cross back as they could not get through the narrow strip of footpath. It is dangerous for them to do this as the vehicle obstructs their vision and they have to step out from behind it, being a busy street, especially on a Thursday, this is dangerous.
Another appeal to the general public is not to use the disabled parking spaces. These are vital to us. I saw a sticker that somebody had used on a vehicle parking illegally. It said "You took my parking space, would you now like to take my disability".