Tag Archives: accessibility

Disability and the Liberal Democrats

Recently, a Party member campaigning to be elected as the local Liberal Democrat candidate invited  me to attend a coffee morning to meet him. Certainly, I said. I must check first though; I assume that the premises are wheelchair accessible? They were not. This is unacceptable.

Frankly, I am completely fed up. Over and over again, I find people campaigning for justice for survivors of sexual assault, the LGBT community, immigrants, and so on, but they do not consider disabled people. Nearly half of disabled people feel excluded from society, and one of the direct causes of this is architectural barriers. …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 24 Comments

Baroness Celia Thomas writes….The disabled man in the airport

A few days ago, it was reported that last year a paraplegic athlete, Justin Levene, shuffled through Luton Airport on his bottom because his own self-propelled wheelchair was stuck on the plane. He didn’t want to accept Luton Airport’s offer of a different non-self-propelled wheelchair, not least because of the danger of pressure sores, but also the indignity of losing his independence that had been so hard-won.

I have seen various accusations; that it was churlish, offensive, arrogant, publicity seeking – the list goes on.  However others, notably disabled people themselves, have applauded him for drawing attention to the difficulties people with disabilities face if they travel, particularly the inadequate facilities at airports. Some people have accused him of making a fuss but, until you have experienced how little people seem to consider accessibility issues, making a fuss often becomes the only thing you can do to ensure people take notice. The news coverage of Justin Levene is case in point.

This comes at the end of a week when I attended a meeting about disabled access and inclusion, with two Ministers, civil servants and disabled Peers. We were told about the new cross-departmental committee on disability, and its consultation with the Disability Charities Committee – a group I’d barely heard of.  After a bit, one of the Government-supporting Peers let fly.  He told about attending a VIP dinner at a high-end hotel in central London, only to discover that there was no accessible toilet there, but that he could be led to a bedroom some way away which had an accessible bathroom attached to it. He said he felt worthless and demeaned by that, and made sure he was dehydrated.

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Sal Brinton talks of being stuck in House of Lords as peer refused to move to let her past

The House of Lords debated the proposed works to the Palace of Westminster this week.

Sal Brinton took advantage of the opportunity to make a plea for the refurbished Parliament to be properly accessible. She highlighted some of the ways in which the current set-up fails disabled people. She also spoke of an experience where one peer wouldn’t actually let her past to leave a Lords debate, making her late for a meeting.

My Lords, in the wonderful elegance of parliamentary language, we have talked much already about “patch and mend”. The restoration and renewal of the buildings and the facilities in the Palace of Westminster are vital and urgent and I believe that we need to use much franker language given the neglect of the past. I support the Motion and oppose the amendment. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, that 20 years ago I was bursar of Selwyn College, Cambridge, when we needed to renew and restore our main court that had seen little—frankly, virtually no—maintenance and progress since it was built a century before. Student rooms still had gas and electric fires and the electric cabling was on its last legs, with much of the urgent work not visible or easily accessible. Does this sound familiar?

Since Selwyn was the poorest college and had very little resource to invest over the years in the buildings, the “patch and mend” approach was clearly failing us. We knew we had to do the work in one go, no matter how disruptive it was. We were also clear that we had to ensure it did not happen again, and that maintenance must be built into the future life of the buildings. This is also true for the Palace of Westminster after this major work. What steps are being taken to ensure that detailed maintenance costs of the building, and not just the ordinary life of the building, are being built into the baseline budget and then ring-fenced? The future of this historic and important building is just too important to get wrong.

When my noble friend Lady Thomas of Winchester, who cannot be in her place today but I hope will soon be able to rejoin us, gave evidence to the Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster, she spoke for many of us who face accessibility issues in the Palace. I am grateful that the Joint Committee has taken the evidence on accessibility from a number of people, but I seek reassurance that there really will be a step change under the full decant option. It is not a “nice to have” option, and now is the best time to do the core work. So I am pleased to see in paragraph 7 of the Motion that there will be,

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How accessible is Federal Conference?

For those who are regular attendees at Federal Conference, you will know that over the last few years, the venues have changed significantly. Being in Government, we’ve seen a shift from open door policy to armed police.

And with this added security, many of us with access needs have found problems. Walking distances have increased, check points have increased and venues seemingly expand every year in colour, size and choice of experience.

When you suffer from a long term condition, it’s often overlooked by those who don’t that such needs can have an impact on your ability to enjoy and make the …

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Conference: fringe guide available #ldconf

Just a quick reminder that all the main documents relating to Lib Dem conference in Bournemouth – now less than fortnight away – are now available directly from the party’s website.

These include the main hall agenda, the policy papers to be debated and fringe and training guides.

Find them all at this handy link.

It’s also worth noting and commending that the information is available in a variety of formats, from the printed books, the PDFs of those, and also simply as plain text – which is good and accessible for those with disabilities and also very handy for PDAs, phones …

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