A disabled woman who successfully challenged a utility company over the discriminatory actions of its contractors, after they made crossing-points impossible for her and her daughter to access, is calling on other disabled people to follow her example.
Kate Ball, from Derby, has secured compensation and an apology from CityFibre and now hopes her victory will encourage other disabled people to challenge utility companies that discriminate against them by blocking their path with temporary works.
She and her disabled daughter Sophia (pictured), who is autistic and has learning difficulties, were out for a walk on 15 July when they were forced to attempt a risky road crossing because two pedestrian crossings were blocked with equipment placed there by contractors working for broadband network provider CityFibre (pictured).
Ball uses a wheelchair and Sophia cannot judge vehicle speeds, and both of them were put at risk by having to cross the road when they saw a gap in the traffic, rather than being able to use a pedestrian crossing.
After the incident, Ball secured information about the roadworks – which were there because CityFibre was laying broadband cables – from Derby City Council, and contacted CityFibre and its contractors.
She then wrote a “letter before action” to CityFibre, explaining that she and her daughter were both disabled and had faced discrimination because of its actions, and told the company she was prepared to take it to court for disability discrimination under the Equality Act.
She pointed to Department for Transport guidance, Safety at Street Works and Road Works, which makes it clear that failure to comply with the code of practice is a criminal offence*.
The code warns “operatives, supervisors, managers, planners and designers” of road works that they “must pay particular attention to the needs of disabled people”.
In response to her letter, CityFibre apologised and blamed “human error” and “poor site management” by its contractors.
A manager told her: “CityFibre recognises the need to ensure that our build is designed inclusively and in line with legislation and that our contractor failed in this regard.”
She accepted the offer of £500 compensation, and a promise to ensure training for CityFibre’s contractor Trust Utility Management (TUM) that would “emphasize their responsibility for site standards and safety, including contractor-installed traffic management”.
CityFibre also said it would stop using the sub-contractor used by TUM to carry out works “due to their failure to meet the required standards”.
But after Ball pushed CityFibre further, it also agreed to review its own internal training.
Ball told Disability News Service: “My hope is that other people could use a similar approach if they know about it.
“I’d really like more disabled people to know how road works should legally give access as I think this could be a very useful way to help people improve provision and stop temporary road works from blocking people’s journeys.”
CityFibre and TUM refused to comment.
*The code applies across the UK, although failure to comply with it is not a criminal offence in Scotland where Scottish government ministers have authority over its application
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