Disabled people have developed a series of solutions to address the daily discrimination caused by the inadequate, inaccessible and unsafe infrastructure they face as they move around their communities.
Among solutions across nine key areas are calls for long-term funding to maintain and improve pavements; an end to pavement parking; and improved access to mobility aids.
These and other solutions are included in the new Disabled Citizens’ Inquiry report, the result of a six-month inquiry led by the walking and cycling charity Sustrans, in partnership with the disabled people’s organisations Transport for All (TfA).
The solutions to address barriers disabled people face when walking and wheeling around their local community were developed in two-day workshops of disabled people, and tested with experts, many of whom were also disabled.
Their ideas were then put through an Ipsos survey to nearly 1,200 disabled people across the UK.
Among other solutions they produced are improvements to walking and wheeling crossing points across roads and cycle paths; better engagement with disabled people around walking and wheeling policy and practice; and more accessible digital wayfinding and journey planning tools.
They also call for improved access to off-road routes such as canal towpaths, routes through green spaces and the National Cycle Network (which is looked after by Sustrans); and improved integration of walking and wheeling routes with public transport hubs.
And they say disabled people should have a choice to live within easy walking or wheeling distance of services and amenities, with the survey finding that 88 per cent of disabled people believe a planning system which ensures more essential services within walking or wheeling distance of where people live would help them to walk or wheel more.
One of the disabled people who took part in the workshops, Dennis Queen (pictured), from Manchester, said: “Although access to buses, trams and trains in Manchester has improved, nobody’s thought about how you get to them from your house.
“We need honesty and dialogue to understand that it’s not just about the accessibility of buildings and buses, it’s about how we get to them in the first place.”
Another of the workshop participants told the inquiry, which was funded by the charity Motability*: “You’ve got to take a whole approach.
“It’s one thing to set a flat fare [for buses] but if you can’t physically get to the bus stop because you’ve got a mobility impairment then service levels and everything else don’t matter.
“Your public transport journey starts the minute you […] leave your house.”
The survey found two-fifths of disabled people (41 per cent) often experience problems reaching their destination because of the accessibility of the environment around them when walking or wheeling, increasing to 55 per cent of those with mobility impairments or learning difficulties, 58 per cent of deaf or hard-of-hearing people, and 64 per cent of those who are blind or visually-impaired.
The survey also found that nearly one in six disabled people cannot access the mobility aid they need to walk or wheel, with disabled people of colour almost twice as likely (27 per cent) to be affected compared with disabled white people (14 per cent).
And more than half of disabled people (52 per cent) said the rising cost of living was affecting their ability to make essential journeys to places such as shops, healthcare services, education or work.
Caroline Stickland, TfA’s chief executive, said: “Transport for All’s role was to ensure that disabled people’s voices were at the heart of this ground-breaking inquiry.
“From co-designing the study, to facilitating pan-impairment workshops, to generating recommendations, disabled people were involved at every stage.
“Not only does this give the government a uniquely clear and actionable picture of what we as disabled people need to make walking and wheeling more accessible, but it also provides a blueprint for how our community must be engaged with every mode of transport going forward.”
Xavier Brice, chief executive of Sustrans, said: “Our report clearly demonstrates that understanding the barriers disabled people experience getting around their neighbourhoods is imperative in creating an equitable society.
“Putting disabled people at the centre of discussions about how we plan and create spaces where we can all move around easily and safely is vital.
“The UK government must listen and take action to create places planned around people, not cars.”
*The charity Motability is a Disability News Service subscriber
Picture by Tom Hughes/Sustrans
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