Disabled activists have called on a council to force London’s annual gay rights parade to promise major access improvements to this year’s event.
Regard, the national LGBT disabled people’s organisation, said access at last year’s Pride London was “difficult and dangerous”, with many of the access arrangements agreed by the organisers not put into place.
In a 28-page report on access at last year’s event, Dr Ju Gosling, co-chair of Regard, said the gap between what had been promised and what was delivered was “yawning and disgraceful”.
She detailed problems with access stewards, blue badge parking, and accessible transport and toilets.
There were also serious concerns over inadequate numbers of security staff to ensure the safety of disabled people who used the accessible viewing platform in Trafalgar Square.
Gosling said the platform was “mobbed” by non-disabled people who wanted to take advantage of the view, while a drunken woman tried to attack three of the disabled people on the platform.
She also pointed to problems with BSL interpreters, the lack of palantype subtitles on the big screen and the failure to provide a suitable area for assistance dogs.
Regard has written to Westminster council, asking it to make improved access a condition of this year’s event – due to take place on 3 July – receiving a licence.
Gosling said the lack of attention paid to disabled people’s safety and inclusion “makes it appear that all anyone is interested in is benefiting from the millions of ‘Pink Pounds’ brought into London as a result of Pride, with little or no concern for the safety and welfare of LGBT people ourselves”.
But Colm Howard-Lloyd, a spokesman for Pride London, said organisers were “proud of the work we put into making our event as accessible as possible” and that “provision exceeds most other major outdoor events”.
He said Pride London, Westminster council and other agencies did not believe last year’s event was “difficult and dangerous”, but he admitted there “were a few problems in the delivery of everything we had planned to do”.
He said he could “see Regard’s logic” in asking the council to make access provision a licence condition, but it would have “serious difficulty” in imposing conditions that went beyond “compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act”.
And he added: “I would like to see all major events improve their access provision at least to the level of Pride London.”
He said Pride London had now appointed an experienced “associate director” to “focus on access provision and inclusion” and “ensure that the minor problems of last year are not repeated and that we continue to work with Regard and other organizations to ensure this”.
A Westminster council spokeswoman said improved access would not be a condition of this year’s licence, but any action needed on access problems raised before or after such events are agreed with the organiser “on a practical and reasonable basis”.
She said the council was working with the organisers “to ensure they have an adequate stewarding plan in place to address the concerns raised” and would aim to influence planning of the event so that “the public highway in particular remains as accessible as is practical and reasonable”.
6 May 2010