What to consider when accessing local areas in a wheelchair
Back in 2016 I posted a vlog about what to consider when accessing local areas in a wheelchair. The vlog was aimed at novice wheelchair users who might be venturing out for the first time and was inspired by a wheelchair awareness event that the Spinal Team organised where we put 10 able-bodied barristers in wheelchairs for the day.
When I recently viewed my vlog again I noted that a few things had changed. The first thing I noted was that the figure I quote of 1000 people per year sustaining a spinal cord injury is actually now thought to be a lot higher following new data put together by the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA), Aspire and Back Up, three of the leading UK charities providing support to spinal cord injured people. Based on their research the number is actually 2,500. The second thing that requires updating is the helpful website ‘DisabledGo’ has been renamed AccessAble.
Disappointingly however a great deal remains the same. The streets and pavements that wheelchair users have to tackle remain notoriously uneven making even short distances hard work for wheelchair users. Other obstructions such as street furniture and parked cars continue to be an issue except now in today’s post-pandemic world wheelchair users are also facing the impact of social distancing measures; whilst some pavements have been widened to accommodate social distancing others have not, resulting in wheelchairs users facing even more obstructions. Additionally, wheelchair users are finding that accessibility measures such as disabled parking are being given over to queuing systems making everyday life unnecessarily challenging.
Improving accessibility remains a goal that everyone at Bolt Burdon Kemp is passionate about and continuing to strive for. Indeed, we are soon to launch a campaign focussing on the accessibility of law courts for people with physical injuries and those who have hidden injuries and are vulnerable. In the meantime, and until greater change is affected, my advice as given in my vlog also remains the same; seek support from the wonderful charities who can offer wheelchair skills advice such as Back Up Trust and the SIA, when going out and about plan in advance; be prepared and stay positive!