Outraged disabled activists are boycotting next week’s Pride London gay rights parade because they believe organisers have failed to tackle major access problems faced at last year’s event.
Pride London only included access information on its new website this week, less than a fortnight before the event, and has failed to consult with key disabled people about access, or have discussions with those disabled people who raised concerns last year.
This year the event is also hosting the annual WorldPride event, with LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) visitors expected from across the world.
The criticisms came as Pride London organisers announced that they had been forced to scale down the event because of a funding shortfall.
Regard, the national organisation for disabled LGBT people, said it did not feel it could recommend that its members attend this year, because of Pride London’s failure to take access issues seriously.
It also criticised London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, who sponsors the event through the Greater London Authority (GLA), and Westminster council, which licenses it, for failing to take action to improve access.
Dr Ju Gosling, co-chair of Regard, described the situation as a “new low, even for Pride London”.
She said: “We realised some months ago that it would not be safe. We didn’t believe that the people running Pride have got the ability to run an accessible Pride and we couldn’t advise our members to go to something that we knew wasn’t going to be accessible.
“I think all of those things make you think they do not want disabled people there. If they wanted us there they would be asking us how to include us and facilitating it.”
She pointed out that Johnson had promised that London would be “the most accessible city ever to host the Paralympic Games”, which will begin less than two months after Pride London takes place on 7 July.
Among the problems this year, Pride London says it cannot afford to hire any accessible parking spaces for disabled people, while it claims Transport for London is blaming the “pressure of the Olympics” for a failure to provide accessible shuttle buses.
Gosling said Regard had drawn GLA’s attention to the access problems for the last five years. “GLA have decided to let WorldPride go ahead without giving a monkey’s about it being inclusive and accessible, and it’s the same with Westminster council.”
Last year, photographs showed the accessible viewing platform in Trafalgar Square was a narrow strip of pavement at the top of a long flight of steps, with just a flimsy, ankle-height plastic fence to prevent people falling down the steps, and insufficient space for wheelchair-users to pass each other safely.
The “safe space” for disabled marchers was not at the front of the parade, so they were unable to set their own pace – although this may have been rectified this year – and accessible parking had to be arranged by Regard just days before the event.
Other concerns with last year’s event included lifts in Trafalgar Square that were not working; problems with at least one of the Dial-a-Ride shuttle buses and the non-availability of access stewards; and no proper accessible toilets, with just two portable toilets available.
Pride London has so far failed to respond to the latest access concerns, as have Westminster council and the mayor’s office.
28 June 2012