Welcome to The Platform, the new blog from Transport for All putting a spotlight on disabled campaigners in the world of transport and accessibility.
On The Platform you will find stories written by our members and other campaigners about their lived experiences of using transport and streets as a disabled person.
Today’s post comes from Flick, a retired Disability Equality Trainer and Access auditor.
Many of you will be aware that City of York Council have excluded blue badge holders from the central area of the city known as the footstreets.
These ‘footstreets’ are located in York city centre, and have been pedestrianised with a total parking ban in place. For the 7,500 blue badge holders in York, many of whom rely upon the car to get around, this means effectively no longer being able to access this part of York during the times when the exclusions are in place.
These changes were first linked to the need for social distancing at the start of the pandemic. More recently, the Council have linked the pedestrianisation to counter-terror measures and the need for Hostile Vehicle mitigation.
Why is access for Blue Badge holders so important?
Because access to York is vital for older and disabled people. Surely accessibility is a principle that needs upholding?
Many of us who are campaigning against these measures believe that it is a case of ‘any excuse will do’, in order to both achieve a car-free city and to commercialise every last inch of the public realm.
It feels like, sadly, there is little understanding about the barriers disabled people face using transport systems and streets, and the importance of maintaining car access for those who depend upon it.
Disabled people in York have crowdfunded and raised over £10,000 to mount a legal challenge to the council. But whilst the wheels of legal justice grind slowly on, we now have even greater problems to contend with.
The news recently that the Government intends to make outdoor dining permanent is devastating. If it is to be managed anything like it is in York, I fear as disabled people we are in danger of being ‘institutionalised’ within our own homes, increasingly prevented from accessing our own towns and cities.
I am a visually impaired, powered wheelchair user so I take the bus to shop in the city, but now find that some roads are effectively closed to me. I am often forced to go onto the low-traffic roads, which is often not possible as there are no drop kerbs and it is certainly not safe. Note low and not no traffic.
For many impairment groups this feels like an accident waiting to happen in my opinion, and perhaps that is what it will take for common sense to prevail, and a proper recognition of our access needs reached.
I believe there is a mindset, a ‘local groupthink’ where, having ‘got away’ with blue badge exclusion, anything goes. In York we continue to campaign, and I want to raise awareness among people in other parts of the country. These issues affect us all!