Today was one of those days where I didn’t think I could take any more.
I took Elf on Wheels (and my son on wheels) out to explore a local town, with a view to a lighthearted post showing that places are not quite as accessible as most people think. Photos were taken, very carefully, so as to not identify any of the shops publicly – because that was not the purpose of what I wanted to show. I had just wanted to show that access difficulties exist, because too many people incorrectly assume that “everything is accessible nowadays”.
It was harder that I expected it to be. I know that many places are not great for us so I usually just avoid them altogether. I shouldn’t have to avoid them, but avoidance is easier than facing constant exclusion.
The Equality Act exists, but it does nothing unless a person is strong enough to use it, which can be costly. It is also very time consuming with a risk of losing, and ending up responsible for court costs. So the Equality Act often lies there, unused, gathering dust.
Realising just how many places were not accessible, in just a thirty minute stroll down the street, was really hard going.
And then I come home to learn that the government has stated that it does not back a Bill which would provide access for 800,000 wheelchair-users to 60,000 shops, pubs and cafés across England, Scotland and Wales. Hard to believe, isn’t it? Take a look for yourself via the Disability News Service.
I was even more appalled at the comments from Baroness Williams, who said “the duty to make reasonable adjustments was “now enshrined in the Equality Act and remains a cornerstone of the protection offered to disabled people” and “achieves the delicate balance of taking account of the rights of disabled people and what is reasonable to expect of those under a duty to make an adjustment”.
She also said that the Equality Act was “deliberately and carefully worded to allow for greater scope in considering how best to solve the particular problem being experienced by the disabled person”.
As someone who is assisting her son in using the Equality Act, I can confirm that it is not something which works in the way that it should. It is not “carefully worded”, but woolly. Nobody knows what is considered a “reasonable adjustment” and it is far from easy to contact a solicitor and deal with the enormous amount of paperwork which ensues.
And the Act itself does nothing to force providers to ensure new buildings and refurbishments are fully accessible. If it did, why on earth would my 11 year son be having to use the Equality Act to ensure that he can access a recently opened toy shop?
Let us stop pretending that the Equality Act works.
The photos on here were taken in one street. I didn’t even photograph every shop that we could not get inside. Nor did I photograph those with steps but also a bell to enable wheelchair users to gain assistance.
Nor did I photograph the inside of two shops where we could not access all parts of the store. Nor did I record the palaver of having to reverse out of one shop after paying for our goods.
We only went out for less than hour. This is the reality for too many people.
We need our government to support the highest standards for all people. Please let Baroness Williams know that her government is wrong on this.
Equality has to mean for all.