We at Ethos would have been taking part in the fantastic campaigns around Disabled Access Day today . But like so many great events this biannual celebration of accessibility across the UK has had to be cancelled because of the pandemic.
The organisers are currently looking at the best way to run the event in future years and its founding charity Euan’s Guide is still hard at work providing a platform for disabled people to review accessibility in their own areas.
In the meantime we thought we would do our own bit to mark the day and celebrate the work of Ethos client Darren and his survey of accessibility in and around Oswestry.
Darren first began his mission to check out accessibility in the area after being discharged from the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital and coming to Ethos.
Darren, from Birmingham, relied on a wheelchair after he underwent surgery for a narrowing of his spine at the Birmingham Royal Orthopaedic Hospital. He was later transferred to the Midlands Centre for Spinal Injuries at the RJAH for rehabilitation.
Soon after arriving at Ethos he set himself the challenge of raising awareness of changes that were needed, giving recognition to venues with good accessibility and helping others with mobility problems.
Under the Equality Act 2010, organisations like employers, shops, restaurants, local authorities and schools have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to enable people with disabilities to access services.
Darren assumed that because the area was home to the Midlands Centre for Spinal Injuries there would be a reasonable level of awareness of accessibility issues, particularly for wheelchair users.
“The Ethos team was interested in my unofficial study and said they would like to get an update on places to go and eating out, especially for those who, like myself, have spinal injuries.
“The idea was to update local information so we could tell Ethos clients if lifts and wheelchair entrances were available. And we could also raise awareness among local businesses and organisations of the need to make adaptations for people in wheelchairs,” said Darren.
Darren concentrated on food venues around the town and found that everywhere he went businesses and staff were helpful and willing to accommodate his needs.
But the level of accessibility for a wheelchair was patchy and he was particularly dismayed by the lack of toilet facilities for wheelchair users.
“Some pubs, for example, do have disabled toilets but you cannot always move inside them due to really cramped conditions or because it is being used for storage. Further, I have not found a disabled toilet that offers a radar key system,” he said.
Darren is calling for development changes in Oswestry to remove the barriers he faced as a wheelchair user in the town.
“More money needs to be invested in the area with a focus on wheelchair ramps, lower postage machines and ATMs in the wall, all roadsides, kerbs and footpaths need to be repaired, public buildings should have accessible toilets which are easy to use, shop fronts should have automatic door opening and old shops need to have mobile, sloping ramps,” he said.
Darren is now able to walk using a wheeled frame thanks to his determination and a strict physiotherapy regime. The pandemic - as for Disabled Access Day - has curtailed his survey, but he is still determined to continue to highlight accessibility around the town – both good and bad – as soon as he can get out and about again.
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