Archive for the ‘ birmingham ’ Category

*waves* I’m Still Here!

I haven’t posted in ages and I’m really sorry about that.

It’s been a pretty hectic summer for me and I’ve had some health issues that have just eaten all my spare spoons I’d normally use for blogging. I’m hoping that now things are settling down that I can get back to normal!

As you may or may not know I’m pretty passionate about doing what I can to try to improve other peoples experience of Birmingham City Councils (BCC) Adults & Communities division (adult social care). I had quite a few issues with them, the DWP, Atos and the NHS wheelchair service when I first became physically disabled which is one of the main reasons I became a disability rights campaigner. I wanted to do my part to ensure that others in the same boat had a better experience than I did.

Now many of the issues surrounding adult social care aren’t things that that are within adults & communities remit to deal with. Social services cannot force Osborne to free up extra funding for them in his budget, nor do they have the last word on how much the local councillors decide to devote to the department. They can’t ignore national initiatives they are compelled to take part in nor can they interfere in the NHS. What they can do is work with the resources they have to commission appropriate services and to try to force up the quality of third party contractors where possible. They can also look at their own services and make sure they are appropriate, upholding citizens rights and of a good quality.

I’ve joined a Citizen-led Quality Board which works alongside BCC Adults & Communities to look at the why’s, what’s, when’s and how’s of their commissioning process to point out problems, encourage good practice and share citizens ideas and concerns.

I’m going to endeavour to write up a few posts about various areas we are covering in an effort to both share information and to look at our performance. Until then, look after yourself & I hope you have a great October x

Advertisements

Birmingham Social Inclusion Green Paper Consultation

Today I discovered that a Birmingham based group, Be Birmingham, is launching a consultation on a paper they are putting forwards to try and improve social inclusion within the city.


You can read the consultation here;  Social Inclusion Green Paper Consultation

I think it is a wonderful idea so I have decided to try and see if I can engage with it. After having a read through it with an eye primarily for adult disability issues I composed the following email to them. It’s not wonderfully written (I blame the patriarchy my drugs) but hopefully it will help remind people that might not have ever had cause to engage with disability matters why it’s so vital that we do at this point.

Here is a copy of the email I sent;

Hello,  


I was reading through the Social Inclusion Green paper and I can’t find many areas that really reference adult disability in any way, other than pg 33. I see lots of mentions of social care for older people, children and families as well as a desire to make Birmingham more accessible and inclusive of people of all races & cultures; all of which is wonderful. Unfortunately I see nothing on the impact of welfare reform on disabled people, such as these issues;

  • Disabled people are disproportionately represented among benefit claimants due to educational attainment issues, higher poverty, lack of accessible work and employer discrimination.
  • 20% of people that currently DLA (to cope with the increased living costs of being disabled in a all too often non-accessible world) will be losing that income when PIP is introduced. DLA is already very hard to claim, you need a lot of letters and evidence from consultants, nurses, doctors, social workers and carers to realistically be awarded the benefit and even then chances are you will still be refused and have to go to tribunal.
  • DLA currently acts as a ‘gateway benefit’; those in receipt of it are eligible for blue badges, disabled persons rail cards, the Motability scheme (which is crucial if you need an adapted car or a electric wheelchair – something the NHS rarely can afford to provide) and a whole host of other schemes. It is heavily assumed PIP will preform the same role, except less people will receive PIP which means fewer people will have access not only to the extra income but the schemes that help make that extra income go further.
  • Contributions based ESA has been time limited to one year, which means those who have a working spouse/partner no longer receive any income of their own if their partner earns over £7500 pa. This massively increases financial dependency (something that can be a key cause of abuse), financial hardship and adds additional stress to families already struggling to adapt to having a suddenly chronically sick/ disabled person in their family. 
  • The loss of Legal Aid to challenge ESA & DLA/PIP decisions  At the moment 40% of those found ‘fit to work’ who choose to challenge that decision at tribunal are found ‘unfit to work’ and placed on ESA. 
  • Moving of people from Incapacity Benefit to ESA which means going through heavily criticised assessments where thousands of severely disabled people are found ‘fit for work’ until the decision is overturned after a stressful appeal & tribunal which can easily take a year due to the overcrowding of the tribunal system because of the flawed ESA assessment process. 
  • The bedroom tax now means that disabled people who had a extra bedroom to store essential medical equipment like dialysis machines or to provide a bed for carers/ partners that are unable to share a bed are being put at a disadvantage. Lord Freud stated during the Welfare Reform Bill debates that he believed that local councils would use the hardship fund/ social fund to help with these extra costs, but if the hardship fund continues to be only be available for short term aid then I can’t see this actually happening unless the money is explicitly ring fenced. 
  • The Independent Living Fund is also being abolished. The Independent Living Funds were set up as a national resource dedicated to the financial support of disabled people to enable them to choose to live in the community rather than in residential care. Without access to it many fear a return to the dark days when disabled people were forced into care homes and kept segregated from the community, reducing diversity and quality of life.
  • Changes to local council tax means that many disabled people who are not deemed ‘disabled enough’ to receive a disability premium because like many they either do not claim DLA, are waiting for a tribunal decision, have only been disabled for a few months or were not deemed disabled enough to warrant it will not be fully protected by the council and will have to find a way of paying a chunk of their council tax bill. 

There is a pernicious myth that charities provide money & services which will make up for the huge reduction in personal income. Sadly this isn’t the case. Charities use their money to support their awareness raising work, research and to man advice lines and centres. Most do not provide grants, adaptations, equipment, food parcels, money towards heating or care. Those few that do only provide very limited amounts to a few people with specific illnesses/disabilities in very specific circumstances. There is also another myth that fraud is rife when it comes to disability benefits, currently the fraud rate for DLA (not including errors) sits at 0.5%. Even if all the people committing fraud (and that figure includes those who’s conditions have changed and aren’t as disabled as they once were) are weeded out by the new assessments PIP will be bringing in 19.5% of those who loose out will be ‘genuinely’ disabled people who need the extra income.  

That is just one area in which many disabled people will be negatively affected and Birmingham needs a coherent policy to deal with. These issues are real and will increase isolation (which isn’t an issue that just effects the elderly), increase the risk of abuse (at a time Disability Hate Crimes are at an all time high), increase poverty amongst some of the most vulnerable people in the city and potentially increase the amount of people being forced into care homes as a result of a huge withdrawal of funds and services. We live in a city where many pavements don’t have lowered curbs which makes them non-accessible for those with mobility issues, many traffic lights are not set up to be used by those with visual impairments, the local ESA assessment centre at Fiveways is not wheelchair accessible, local high streets are too narrow to allow for ramps into shops, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 & the Equalities Act 2010 are only enforced if the disabled person discriminated against can afford the cost (both in financial and personal terms) of taking the offending business to court, the Ring and Ride scheme has started to charge, accessible social housing for those with mobility impairments is primarily reserved for over 55’s, there are huge cuts being made at every budget to Adults & Communities (which lead to the ill fated decision not to provide support for those without ‘super critical’ needs) and there is little/no representation of disabled people in our cities decision makers. Things need to change and I think your paper could be a big step in the right direction.  

I would be more than happy to meet with you and discuss these issues and help to solidify some additional proposals to strengthen your policy when it comes to disabled people. I am not affiliated with any charities but I am a disabled woman who has dedicated herself to trying to improve the lives of disabled people, especially in Birmingham.  


Warm Regards


If you live in Birmingham and feel strongly about these issues I can only suggest that you consider contacting the group and getting involved.

You can contact the campaign in the following ways;

  • Write to:
  • Jackie Mould
  • Giving Hope Changing Lives
  • PO Box 16253
  • B2 2WS
  • Via Twitter @fairbrum or use #fairbrum
  • Telephone the Partnership Team on  0121 675 3499

Complaining About A NHS Mental Health Service

In my experience many people want to complain about things they don’t like within the NHS. Be it staffing levels, access, choice, quality or any number of other different things. As today I have put aside a little time to deal with a issue within my local community mental health trust I thought I would blog how I went about dealing with it so that others who might be put off by not knowing how to go about it or the stress of doing so can see how simple it can be to make your voice heard.

The Problem

I became a patient/service user back in late 2009/early 2010. I met my psychiatrist once then I was informed  that he had left the practice and that I would either see my new doctor or a temporary locum at my next appointment. Every 2/3 months since that point I have seen a different locum doctor, sometimes I’m fortunate enough to see the same one twice before they move on. Each time I have to see a new doctor I feel I have to start from scratch with them, combat their assumptions/prejudices, explain why I use a wheelchair, talk about my treatment and then debate if the ‘new pill!’ they want to put me on would really be any better than my current medication. I don’t feel like I am getting any value out of these appointments, in fact more often than not they simply upset me because I feel I have to talk about chunks of my history I am not comfortable talking about with someone who won’t be there next time I visit.

Every time I meet a new locum I start by asking if they are permanent and every time they tell me that they have asked to be made permanent but that it’s up to BSMHFT (Birmingham & Solihull mental health foundation trust). So it appears that for some reason or another BSMHFT have decided that they are better off using locums rather than hiring a full time doctor. My cynical side tells me that it is a cost cutting exercise because locums don’t accrue rights & pay rises the way a permanent staff member would. Still, regardless of BSMHFT’s reasons the situation is very far from ideal and I believe is upsetting a number of patients, not just myself.

How I decided to go about making my voice heard.

The first thing I do when I want to complain/make my views heard is try to work out who I need to talk to. When I have issues with a hospital I know that I can just contact that hospitals branch of PALS (Patient Advice & Liaison Service). If my issue is with a GP or dentist I would contact the surgery to ask for details of the complaints procedure. As it’s my local mental health team I would normally call them up and ask for details of the complaints procedure but past experience of doing that hasn’t gotten me very far so instead I look up the BSMHFT website and look for contact details.

Luckily for me BSMHFT has a branch of PALS so my second step is to call them up and to ask how best to deal with the issue. They were very helpful and suggested that my first stop should be trying to talk to the manager of my local community mental health team (CMHT), then if they were unreceptive I should contact PALS again to get some help putting in a complaint.

Next I decide to follow the advice I’ve just been given and call my CMHT and ask to speak to the manager about this. I’m really rather nervous but I really think this is too important to let that put me off. The manager was very pleasant and started by asking if I wanted to talk over the phone or if I would rather make a face to face appointment. I opted for the phone (because my electric wheelchair is broken at the moment) and then explain that I wasn’t very happy with the state of play & listed – briefly – my reasons for this. The manager listened and then proceeded to explain that the CMHT would like the position filled and that there are a lot of patients service users who feel like I do. They are being told that there are plans in place to have a permanent consultant but, they don’t want to make any promises because they’ve been told that before then been forced to back track when nothing came of it. It seems that people think that the position is being left open for a couple of reasons; firstly, as I suspected, locums are cheap and lacking in employment rights and secondly, by having an open position it makes it easier for the trust to reshuffle employees should there be another wave of cuts. The manager agreed to send out a formal complaint form so that I could make my objections known with the hope that if enough people do that it will put pressure on those responsible for allocating staff to fill the position.

Now it’s just a case of waiting for the complaints for to arrive which I will fill out and send off. It’s really important that I do because the chances of todays phone call actually being mentioned to the people who need to pressured (those allocating staff) is pretty slim. A formal complaint will be logged on the system and added to any others that have been sent in and those will make it to the desks of the decision makers.

I hope this might have inspired a couple of people to make their views heard and given a bit of support when it comes to finding out how to do so.

Birmingham City Council Public Question Time

This Tuesday, June 12th, saw the first Birmingham City Council (BCC) ‘Public Question Time‘ launched. The  initiative was forwarded by Sir Albert Bore, the new Labour head of the BCC. 


I was intrigued by the idea so I forwarded a question about disability and the effects of the cuts. To my great surprise it actually was one of the 7 selected, so this Tuesday I took myself down to the BCC chambers to ask it. 

On arrival I was taken up to the chambers which are not really designed for wheelchairs but they found me somewhere to park and had a non-fixed microphone available. The room was beautiful, but at the same time I couldn’t help feeling like I didn’t really belong in a different world as all of the rather well heeled councillors entered the opulent hall. In a time of austerity this kind of old world grandeur seemed a bit too ostentatious for my tastes. I also couldn’t help but reflect on what a huge pity it was that one of the more beautiful rooms in Birmingham City Centre was generally off limits to the general public. Just one more display of the divide between many in the ‘political class’ and the rest of us.

The meeting started with a Christian prayer, something I didn’t think was really necessary and I felt rather uncomfortable abstaining but that’s the way it goes. The Lord Mayor quickly explained the format, we would have 1 minute to ask our question and a relevant member of the council would have 2 minutes to reply, then it would be onto the next.

The questions began and I soon realised the councillors sat in front of myself and another disabled questioner were Conservative & Liberal Democrats. I was shocked when they decided to talk amongst themselves as members of the public, potentially their constituents, voiced their questions and concerns. I assumed they would stop, but they didn’t. Laughing, passing notes and showing complete contempt for not only the Labour councillors responding to questions, but the questioners and any people in the hall trying to listen to the meeting. One question about human rights violating council contractors seemed to really rile them up. The gentleman sat next to me lent forwards to ask them to stop being so rude but they decided not to listen. Eventually I asked my question;

“The previous administration slashed services to disabled adults.As an example; I was left trapped in my house because budgeting restraints wouldn’t pay for a simple wheelchair ramp. I was told that because I could step out of my door – even though I’m virtually unable to walk nor could I carry either of my chairs with me – my needs were not high enough. I simply do not think this state of affairs is good enough at all.  

“To make it worse, in February the council is quoted as having said “We have sought to identify the things that people value the most” when discussing it’s consultation on a new £62m of cuts. It transpired that the vulnerable were not deemed as valued so the brunt of that £62m fell on Adults & Communities, the people who provide much needed help, support & equipment for disabled adults. 

“I believe it is a council’s duty to protect the vulnerable and promote independence over dependence, will this council work to undo the damage done by the previous administration?” 

I didn’t hear the majority of the reply because of the rudeness of ConDem councillors showing a complete lack of respect for the person replying and for myself. The gist seemed to be that the council was upset that they were not receiving their fair share of financial support from Westminster, I believe a comparison with Woking was made to illustrate a large discrepancy. The implication was that with more funding they would be able to do more for the disabled. They reiterated that they would make sure they provided appropriate care for those who were deemed in need of it, but there was no mention of the fact that they choose who is in need and the unfair way BCC has historically redefined disability so that only those who are critically at risk are able to receive direct payments. They also didn’t touch on the issue that left me trapped in my own home, the fact BCC won’t pay for wheelchair ramps for those without NHS electric wheelchairs. The only people in this area that can receive NHS electric wheelchairs are those that can’t walk a step without support. As I can manage a few metres, even though it causes severe pain to do so, I can’t have one. It does not mean that I don’t need a wheelchair ramp.


I left the meeting feeling pretty disgruntled to say the least. Not because I didn’t get the reply I wanted, I expected that but because of the way certain members of the council treated the question time. I can’t believe that humans with any empathy or care about the people they represent would treat constituents raising valid concerns in that manner. I believe one of those councillors will be my local councillor when we move, I will be sure to take myself down to one of her meetings to ask her why she treated me in that manner.


If you want to watch the council meeting you can watch it by following this link to birminghamnewsroom.com 

Birmingham Access Guide Launch – DisabledGo

Today I attended a launch event announcing the arrival of a access guide for Birmingham created by the organisation DisabledGo in conjunction with Birmingham City Council and sponsored by Marks & Spencers.

It began with a member of the council explaining Birmingham’s commitment to “addressing inequalities”. He then went on to talk about how this new IT support service would be a big step forwards in addressing a lot of the existing inequalities. I don’t quite agree with that, but I’ll explain that side of things later. Next up was a lady from DisabledGo who explained about the principles of the access service.

  • It covers 700 venues across Birmingham including mixture of independent businesses and larger chains
  • It covers theatres, cinemas, restaurants, shops, health care providers, education providers, travel, accommodation, banks, professional companies and more
  • These were chosen from the most popular recommendations put forwards by community steering groups at initial consultations
  • Disabled surveyors with various impairments visited each venue using a standard set of questions produced in consolation with disabled people & disabled peoples organisations
  • Users will be able to grow the database by suggesting new places to add as well as commenting on out-dated/ incorrect entries
  • There will also be steering groups twice annually to help direct and grow the guide
  • It is the 90th Access Guide launched by DisabledGo
  • It was match funded, Marks & Spencer provided £40,000 and the council are matching it over 5 years to ensure longevity of the service
  • The service will recruit more local volunteers to act as surveyors as it grows in size
  • The service will be made available to those without internet access through training of front line council and tourist information staff. It will also be possible to get hard copies of the guide.

The guide itself is pretty good. The website; www.disabledgo.com is  available in a range of colour contrast options, variable text sizes and has pro-reader settings.

You can search via post code if you are a local looking for services in specific parts of the city or, if you’re coming to visit then you can choose by area (for Birmingham you’d choose the Midlands, then choose Birmingham City Council from the list of councils covered).

It’s by no means exhaustive, Birmingham has a lot more than 700 businesses, venues, medical providers etc. but it is a good start. Having had a quick look there are a couple of local pubs and restaurants I’ve been avoiding because they appear inaccessible which actually have level access hidden round the back which is rather handy. I still get pretty grumpy about using places that make disabled people use the back entrance or having to ask staff to move bins so we can get in via a odd fire-escape, but having the option of access is better than none. I understand that it’s a step forward and that pre-1990’s civic-planning and architecture was pretty much always built without access for disabled people in mind yet still, segregated entrances will never sit well with me. Anyhow, I digress. 

There were some problematic aspects with regards to the launch, which can be problematic with any initative helping a community as diverse as those who are disabled;

  • I was pretty much the only person not attending as part of a organisation/charity. There were very few individuals. That is an issue because an awful lot of disabled people don’t have contact with the select group of organisations attending. 
  • It was mentioned repetitively that DisabledGo wanted to work with organisations representing disabled people, which means that the views of charities/organisations like RNIB, RNID, Cerebral Palsy Midlands, Spokz People etc… and the often limited range of disabilities they represent will have a larger sway over the direction of content.I would rather see the content driven by all potential users. Even those that don’t attend day centres and are not in frequent contact with charity representatives.
  • There was little there covering access from a specific Mental Health standpoint from what I saw & heard. Though, much of the guide could be very useful to people with Mental Health issues, especially in the anxiety clusters.
  • They give a mark to companies that say their staff have received disability awareness training, but there is no scale for how through this training is nor whether it is kept up to date. From personal experience working with some major UK supermarket chains diversity training is often a 15 min talk given by someone with very little knowledge about the field covering the bear minimum. As a disabled person I find that this ‘training’ more often than not doesn’t seem to stay with staff or stop them acting in a less than ideal manner which makes that certification rather pointless in my opinion.
  • The closing message by one of the project directors spoke about how this project wasn’t intended as an ‘ DDA/equalities act audit’ and how the council was using this to put ‘nice’ pressure on businesses by explaing that their is £18bn to be made from disabled customers in the UK every year and giving them a gentle nudge towards becoming more accessible in small ways. he was very keen to emphasise that they didn’t want to ‘force’ businesses to become accessible because that might create bad feeling. There was also mention that we shouldn’t be ‘too mean’ to business that don’t live up to access requirements. I, personally, feel much more radically about these things. If a business is not DDA/Equalities Act compliant I feel they should be told they are breaking the law and that they need to deal with the breach asap. Businesses will always have an excuse not to part with money in the short term for staff training/ colour defined steps/ wheelchair ramps/ hearing loops and so on and so forth. I don’t think a business’s owner’s right to feel comfortable exceeds disabled peoples rights to basic choice, access & independence. If we don’t start enforcing the equalities act the only people who will suffer are the already oppressed and disadvantaged.

All in all I though the product they were launching is a very useful tool and will become more so over time if plenty of people buy into it. I for one plan to take advantage of it. Still, there were issues with how it’s being rolled out and in my mind it is being used by the council to cover some rather counter-productive attitudes to disability and access.

May 3rd Local Elections

This is a bit late but then again I’m kind of unwell right now so I’m not going to beat myself up about it. My blog, my rules.

I stood as a candidate for the Green Party for the first time ever this year in the Lozells & East Handsworth ward. It’s a very safe Labour seat so I wasn’t expecting to win, but I feel it’s important that the party is there and available so people can have some element of choice. I came third, beating the Liberal Democrats and coming in 125 votes behind the Tories – Labour won by a massive margin but I’m just happy to have taken part. I’m also really happy to see how well the Green Party has done in the West Midlands. A year ago we had 3 councillors on 3 councils. Now we have 12 councillors on 7 councils! We’ve gained in Nuneaton, Dudley, Chelmsley Wood and Worcester. I’m so proud to be a part of it.


My local ward, a old Tory safe zone, is now controlled by Labour as is the city of Birmingham. We’ve been struggling under the weight of a nasty ConDem coalition for 8 years and they’ve finally been booted out. I’m not getting too enthusiastic about things changing under Labour but I am hoping things won’t continue to get worse.

The ConDems have destroyed social care in Birmingham and it desperately needs salvaging. After one wave of huge cuts which was followed up by the decision to only award support to those assessed as having ‘super critical‘ needs they got hit by legal action and it looked like things would get a bit better. Then in February this year they announced a further £62m in cuts, £30m from adults & communities (which deals with all disabled people over 18) and £22.5m from children, young people & families. The latter cuts coming only a few short years after the tragic death of Khyra Ishaq because, in part, of the poor state of children’s social services in the city. Why these cuts? When the deputy leader, Lib Dem Paul Tisley, was asked why they had cut these areas and not others he explained they had “…sought to identify the things that people value the most.” Implying that supporting and safeguarding the vulnerable was not high on their list of priorities. This is one of many reasons I am extremely glad these people are no longer in power.

Birmingham also voted ‘No’ to having a elected Mayor. Whilst I’m happy we aren’t getting one (I feel it undermines the council and places a lot of power in one person) I’m disappointed in the lack of information given out to residents. I think democracy only works when people are able to make an informed choice and given the lack of information provided it was impossible for many to do that.

Regardless, I feel more positive going forwards. Cameron & Clegg have been given a kicking which will hopefully make them realise that the country won’t stand idly by whilst they treat us like fools.

Disability & Birmingham Christmas Market 2012

This morning I met with Steve Hollingworth to talk about access issues surrounding the annual Frankfurt Christmas Market in Birmingham City Centre.

There are millions of disabled people in the UK, 1 in 5 Brits are covered by the Disability Disrcimination Act. Trying to keep in mind that I wasn’t the only person affected by these issues I got started. We talked a lot but in the end I would say we covered the following areas;

  1. Alternative routes around the market for people with disabilities which make the routes with stairs etc…  difficult.
  2. Internal routes in the market and challenges/ barriers to access.
  3. Issues of abuse stemming from the bars.
  4. Training of the security staff.

Alternative Routes

I was shown the plans for allowing step free access between Broad Street & New Street which avoids much of the Christmas Market. This involved using the underpass leading to Fletcher walk, then following the pavement along besides the Town Hall along Hill Street to New Street. I explained the issues with this route as I saw them;

  • Two steep ramps connect Broad St to Fletchers Walk (possibly more than 1:12) are very hard to navigate if you have mobility impairments, especially when the weather is icy. Manual wheelchairs slip backwards, attendants struggle to propel them, it’s very hard work for those dealing with exhaustion, balance issues and so on.
  • The alternative route joins to New Street at the top of Pinfold Street. Last year a florist has set up between the market stalls and a set of bollards & phone boxes at the top of Pinfold Street. The bollards & phone boxes were too close together to allow my wheelchair to pass through between the road and the stall so my only options were; to go through the market or to cross Pinfold Street. As Pinfold Street doesn’t have lowered curbs on either side of the road at the top end of the street, to get to a step free crossing point you have to travel down a fairly steep hill and then back up.
  • Visibility – it’s all good having a route suitable for those who need step free alternatives but if it’s not clear that it’s an alternative then it won’t get used.

The council are going to check the gradient of the ramps, if it is more than 1:12 then it isn’t suitable as a ramp for wheelchair users etc… I also asked them to ensure that if it was used they had a good gritting policy to make sure it wasn’t anymore hazardous than needs be. The florist will be back this year so they will hopefully try and ensure that they know they can’t ‘expand’ into the space required for wheelchair access. They will also look at removing bollards that block the way. Hopefully by the route being clear from obstructions it will aid visibility, as will making sure staff are trained to direct people.

Another alternative route was to go from Paradise Forums around the back of the Council Buildings and down Bennetts Hill to join onto New Street at the Tescos. There are a couple of issues with this route as well, examples are;

  • Issues with dropped curbs – Bennetts Hill has a couple that are quite high and also have ‘holes’ in front of them which easily catch casters, sticks and feet.
  • Issues with visibility of route.

They will check Bennetts Hill and surrounding streets for safe access (no dangerous curb issues). Once more, hopefully trained staff will be able to direct people to the appropriate route.

Internal Access Challenges

The largest issue last year was the crush of people trying to move, shop and browse in very confined spaces. As well as being stressful for those trying to use mobility aids or with aural & visual disabilities it was also very upsetting for many of those with mental health issues and learning difficulties. They have already decided to try and ensure the same doesn’t happen again by widening the thoroughfare around the outside of Victoria Square into a single ‘street’ of shops rather than the two they have had previously.

  • In the middle of the thorough fare there will be a set of steps. I drew attention to the risks these posed if the area was too crowed for people to be able to see them. They are a trip/fall hazard for people with visual impairments (as at the best of times they don’t have strong distinguishing features – like colours or textures) and people with mobility issues.
  • There are squeeze points where it gets very congested and practically gridlocked around Tesco, bar’s and in and out of the Paradise Forums. These create problems for many disabled people in the forms of stress, anxiety, standing related issues, continence (for those that don’t have the luxury of waiting 5mins in a queue to get to the nearest toilets) and other such things.
  • Last years market had barriers placed around the back of the shops meaning that once you were in the market you couldn’t just leave by cutting through the gaps between stalls. If you wanted to leave you had to get to an exit point which was often very difficult, especially if you were a disabled person. If you wanted to get help moving the barriers so you could ‘escape’ then it became a bit of a lottery. Some security staff were helpful, others far less so.
  • The ambient noise levels are also quite high so this makes life hard for those with hearing difficulties to participate as most stalls didn’t have hearing loops.

They are looking at placing some Christmas trees or similar on the steps so that the flow of people goes around them and disabled people are not accidentally forced over them.The squeeze points have been noted and they are looking at making extra room by removing stalls and using creative seating arrangements near the bar areas. Better/ consistent training for security staff should make it easier for disabled people to ‘escape’ the market once inside if they need to. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get a resolution on the issues surrounding hearing problems, sorry.

Abuse Issues

I explained that a combination of alcohol + a rise in disability related hate crime + overcrowded stressful conditions seemed to play a key factor in the abuse I had received. Most of the insults were levied at me when the market was congested and I was either near a busy drinking area or in the line of sight of someone who appeared to have been at the mulled wine previously. I agreed that the plans to widen the thoroughfare to reduce congestion as well as plans to move the seating for various bars out of the main thoroughfare would hopefully ease this. Changing the attitudes that feed into the abuse was outside of the remit of our session 😉

Training of Security Staff

As mentioned before, there wasn’t really a continuity of standards in this area. Depending on which person you asked for assistance you could get a whole range of replies. Like many security staff the only disability training they seem to have really received was the diversity section of the SIA licence course and the common sense they have developed over the years. I suggested that they consider making sure they are all briefed with disability issues in mind so that they can fulfil their role and maximise the accessibility of the event.

I think it went fairly well and I’ve been promised they will be in contact to let me know the outcomes of our discussion so any next steps can be taken. Sorry if you’ve read this and feel disappointed that I missed something. I’m still pretty new to all this. Anyway, love to you all.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: