Living with a disability is no laughing matter, although Peterborough’s approach to the issue has become something of a joke.
Those in need of extreme special assistance have inexplicably had their hydra-therapy pool taken away, whilst those trying to make the journey to the regional pool (when open) in a wheelchair, find it almost impossible now that the car park has been fenced off and given to the university.
Our premier shopping venue, (circa 1992) Queensgate, is now getting in on the disability act with a new attraction entitled, ‘lifts of chance’ – sometimes they go up, sometimes they don’t, defying the old saying.
This ‘lift lottery’ is of course little use to the wheelchair user who needs to plan their journey ahead of time and the centre’s response to their up and down disability issues was wholly inappropriate; “Use the lifts in Primark or M&S.”
But they neglect to offer signage to said alternative lifts or check whether those lifts are in fact working, which often they are not.
How would a new visitor to the city know where these alternatives are? Are they supposed to be telepathic?
Queensgate has a legal duty to provide access for the disabled and they are routinely failing in that duty, but they are not the only ones.
The proliferation of an unchecked ‘café culture’ in the city has led to an unwanted game of dodgems for many wheelchair users and those with sight issues, as various bits of erroneous street furniture do their best to frustrate people’s journey through the city centre – if the chairs and plant pots don’t get them, the weaving cyclists will!
These issues, alongside many others, like the lack of information on blue badge parking, the paucity of accessible toilets and the incredible range of inaccessible shops, have all been raised with the leaders of Peterborough city council, on many, many occasions.
The council has even received £80,000 in funding for accessible toilets and some Conservative councillors have toured the city centre with disabled people to better understand the issues, but still nothing seems to have changed.
Disability ‘superman with kryptonite in his pocket’
Councillor Bryan Tyler (a very good man) is supposed to be the council’s disability champion, but he appears to be a disability Superman with Kryptonite in his pocket, unable or unwilling to speak out on issues that might upset the ruling Conservative cabal.
From providing step free routes through the city centre to accessible bus timetables we have the technology to change things and make our city truly inclusive for everyone, we just need to the political will, desire, and vision to ensure that it becomes a reality.
In a cost-of-living crisis the last thing that traders need is an excuse for even more people to boycott the city centre and take their custom elsewhere, but if disabled people feel excluded (which they do) that is exactly what they will do.
And before the usual suspects attack me for not being ‘Peterborough Positive’ about the city centre or being some sort of ‘lefty’, let me say this; I care.
I care that everyone is treated equally. I care that everyone should have the same opportunities, whatever their creed, race, colour, or disability.
You should too and together we should work to ensure that our city centre is transformed for the better, sooner rather than later.
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