Re-open York city centre to the disabled #ClosedToUs

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As the parent of a disabled young adult, I have been shocked by the sudden closure of York city centre streets to Blue Badge holders and to taxis transporting customers with visible and invisible disabilities and impairments into our city.

By introducing, without consultation, these restrictions which affect disabled people disproportionately more than non disabled people, City of York Council have failed in its obligations under the Equality Act (2010).

Substantial reductions in disabled access have been brought in under Covid-related emergency powers. As a result, Badge holders and/or their carers are no longer allowed to park close to where we need, and want, to go. Shops, restaurants, opticians, hairdressers etc, are out of reach. Instead, we are forced to park in a non-central car park and rely on an unsatisfactory, time-limited taxi service with a single drop-off point at the outermost edge of the shopping area.

Taxi access has also been severely reduced, depriving us of a potential, partial solution to the restricted parking and city centre access. Despite the diverse multitude of visible and hidden disabilities, the Council has chosen to impose a rigid “one size fits all” solution that ignores individual, personal circumstances and needs. Reductions in disabled parking bays in popular locations and the use of height barriers in car parks have further affected our ability to access our city.

These measures do not only affect Blue Badge holders. Many more residents with mobility issues, physical impairments, neurological and mental health conditions will also be negatively impacted by the closure of so many streets to vehicles.

At the same time as restricting access to residents and visitors with disabilities, under the guise of social distancing, the Council has lifted outdoor drinking restrictions and encouraged pubs and bars to extend onto the now disabled-parking-free streets. 

Whilst supporting the need to limit traffic and boost local business, this must not and need not be at the expense of people with disabilities, their parents and carers.

Our community must be consulted and fair, sustainable solutions found.

Through the Council's discriminatory actions, York has moved away from being the “diverse, fair & safe” city the Council signed up to when it pledged to make York the first Human Rights City in the UK.  Instead, it is well on its way to becoming the most inaccessible city in the UK.

I have included below some comments from residents with disabilities and their families about the detrimental effect these restrictions are having on their lives.

Please add your name in support of York residents and visitors with disabilities and impairments who are currently shut out of York city centre.

Thank you for your support.

We, the undersigned, request that City of York Council re-open the roads and lift the traffic restrictions imposed in the centre of York under emergency powers and without prior notice immediately until a comprehensive equality impact assessment and full public consultation is completed.

#ClosedToUs

Our Lived Experiences

"I use a wheelchair and my adult daughter uses a specialist seating system. We are a family of five. Waiting in line for two shuttle taxis (neither of which were suitable for my daughter's chair) I lost the last shred of dignity I had. Our car was a safe space where we could deal with any anxiety as well as somewhere to store all the equipment our daughter needs - somewhere to return to if needed. Now we can't park in Goodramgate I feel like my family has been banned from the centre. It was already hard enough to get into York as a disabled family. Now it is impossible." Leeann

“ I went for a very short drive yesterday to the hairdressers. The road was closed except to pedestrians, as it always has been. But now, they won't even allow Blue Badge holders to park there. The road was closed entirely, and police were everywhere. My taxi driver explained my situation ("I had to help her out of her house, she can't walk hardly at all") non-too-subtly, but the police said they could do nothing. We both protested. In the end both Police Officers walked me to the hairdressers door. No-one knows how long the street will be closed to vehicles. Some say until December, some say for good. How many more streets are going to ban any kind of traffic? There will always be people who need taxis. I know I am an unusual case, but there can't be just me. Not angry, just frustrated.” Tanya.

“My wife has MS and is a Blue Badge holder. Amongst the symptoms, she suffers from a lack of strength and fatigue. If she goes in to York by herself, which is not often, she plans her parking and shopping to be convenient to minimise walking and, if necessary, for returning to the car to drop off bags.  This would be much more difficult under the new arrangements with a fixed drop off point that is not necessarily in the shopping area that she wishes to visit and on occasions requiring more than one taxi journey, again, possibly from an inconvenient pick up point. It is not even clear whether returning to the car more than once is even possible. The new arrangements just make life more difficult for the disabled to make it easier for the able bodied.” John

“I have lived in York since 1976 and I am beginning to think that the centre of York will be inaccessible to me. I want to be independent and it is doubly difficult when you are on your own and so you can't be dropped off somewhere.”  Anon.

“I was awarded a blue badge to make my life easier and be able to access the city centre. I can walk but not far or reliably or repeatedly. The closer I can park the less impact the activity will have and I will be able to achieve more, I also have delayed fatigue so I can be effected for days even weeks after activity. A taxi taking me to Barnetts isn’t helpful if I need to go somewhere that isn’t near there. Standing waiting can be painful and exhausting. I feel distressed as I have to worry about these things if I need to go to town. Effectively these changes mean I can no longer access my city centre. “ Chloe

“My father has dementia and serious mobility issues. He has a blue badge. My mum effectively looks after him full time (they get a carer's allowance), and she used to enjoy being able to get out of the house with him by driving to the centre, parking, and then getting him to a cafe or restaurant so they could at least be out of the house and see people and life. She could walk with him from the car, and then get him back to the car at the end. It was getting increasingly hard to persuade my dad to go out at the best of times, but now there is no way for the two of them to get into York centre. The only parking is too far from the centre for my dad to be able to walk. My mum can't drive him in, drop him off, and then park, because he may fall and may also try and wander off (albeit at risk of falling). This has not only impacted my dad's life, but also my mum's. Given that York is always and is still packed, saying that closing off blue badge parking was to help with social distancing seems to be a really disproportionate method.” Clare

“I feel as if we have gone backwards 20 years to when disabled women (and men) were told what was best for them without being asked.”  Kim

#ClosedToUs