Harper’s fresh ‘hypocrisy’ over office access


newslatestThe minister for disabled people is facing fresh accusations of hypocrisy after calling on disabled people to take part in a survey on access to sports stadiums, despite refusing to answer questions about his own inaccessible constituency office.

Mark Harper faced ridicule last month after Disability News Service (DNS) revealed that his Conservative constituency office in Cinderford high street, Gloucestershire, was inaccessible to many disabled people.

He then refused to answer a string of questions about his access arrangements, despite having launched a new Accessible Britain Challenge in September, and promoting a high street access survey.

Now he has called on disabled sports fans to “share their experiences of viewing live sport at stadiums and sports grounds across Britain” in a government survey.

He said disabled people had been treated like “second class citizens” at many venues.

Harper said: “We know the situation in football is unacceptable and it’s not only wheelchair access that falls short, but adjustments for people with all kinds of impairments.”

Following concerns about his constituency office raised by leading disabled access consultant Liam Proudlock, DNS submitted a series of questions to Harper, which he has refused to answer.

Kate Green, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, said all MPs needed to think about the accessibility of their constituency offices, and that Harper “should be looking at what more he can do”.

She said Harper “should be taking every step he can to accommodate disabled people, including employees”.

She added: “At the very least people should be making reasonable adjustments, and should be looking to do more than that.”

Green has just recruited a member of staff with a mobility impairment to her own constituency team, and has rearranged office space in the building, which is spread over two floors, so that the new staff member is based on the ground floor and can work as part of a team with other colleagues.

But she promised to examine access at her constituency office at The Morris Hall, Urmston, Greater Manchester, to see if any further improvements could be made.

When asked how Harper could expect disabled people to take part in this latest sports access survey when he refused to answer questions about access in his own constituency office, a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokeswoman said: “He’s been clear there is disabled access.”

She directed further questions to Harper’s constituency office, which has refused to comment further.

8 January 2015