A LEADING disabled activist has slammed council claims of progress on ‘mitigation measures’ for disabled people who have been effectively barred from the city centre by a blue badge ban as ‘pathetic’.
Flick Williams, a visually-impaired wheelchair user and retired access consultant who is a part of the ‘Reverse the Ban’ movement said: “They are trying to spin it that that they have made a lot more progress than they have.
“The fact is the council’s one year progress report on mitigations for the closure of the foot streets to blue badge holders shows a woeful lack of progress.
“Many disabled people find themselves permanently excluded from their own city by the ban, and for those of us that can still get there, we find it increasingly difficult to get about owing to the multitude of cafes that have been licensed for outdoor dining.
“So the discrimination toward disabled people is now multi-layered. (We are) prevented from parking close enough to reach (our) destination, unable to come into the footstreets by taxi, and unable to move about the city (because of) pavement cafes and a distinct lack of progress and indeed urgency in getting on with mitigations.”
Flick insisted that instead of trying to fiddle around the edges with poorly-thought-out mitigation measures, the council should reverse the ban altogether – as 2,700 people who submitted cards opposing the ban to a full council meeting in October requested.
These cards were referred to the council’s Customer and Corporate Services Scrutiny Management Committee last week – and have now been referred back to Executive, Flick said.
But she remains convinced the authority has no intention of seriously considering a reverse of the ban.
The council was hiding behind counter-terrorism advice and the need to make the city’s streets safe as a justification for not allowing blue badge holders to park in the city centre, she claimed.
“The counter-terror defences currently amount to a lone traffic cone in Goodramgate and a dependence on would-be terrorists obeying the Highway Code and not driving the wrong way up one way streets,” she said.
“The fact that York’s counter-terror strategy has more holes than a colander leads many of us in Reverse The Ban to suspect that it is not really about protecting the public at all. Rather it provides cover for the wholesale commercialisation of public realm space to promote the economy, harming and discriminating against disabled and older people in the process.”
Her comments were prompted by a council statement released on Friday which talked about the mitigation measures which had been put in place since last year.
These include: – an access officer, expected to take up post soon – investment in Shopmobility and the Dial-&-Ride service – eight new dropped kerbs in Stonegate, with existing ones refurbished on Colliergate and Church Street – improvements in access to disabled toilets in the city centre with the help of £244,000 funding from Changing Places Cllr Andy D’Agorne, the authority’s Executive Member for Transport, said: “We acknowledged from the outset that significant work needs to be done on developing City Centre Access.
“Listening to the disability community has been an important contribution to shaping the development of this work. The balance between meeting safety concerns, and making our city centre as accessible as possible is a difficult one, but … progress is being made.
“We are not complacent, and recognise there is much more that we need to do.”
Cllr Claire Douglas, the leader of the main opposition Labour group on the council, said safety had to be a priority – but added this should be balanced against the needs of blue badge holders.
“Many blue badge holders are unable to walk more than 50m and they remain locked out of the city centre by this administration’s blue badge holder ban,” she said.
“Regrettably, this decision is being framed as all or nothing, when it doesn’t have to be. It’s morally wrong”.
The ban on blue badge access to most of the city centre was introduced a year ago in response to police counter terrorism advice to make the city centre as car free as possible and install Hostile Vehicle Measures, the council says.