McColls: Disabled people need access to shops and post offices.
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Like Disabled and older people across the UK, residents in Southmead, Bristol face many barriers to using shops and services. One important service that is inaccessible to many residents is McColl's shop and Post Office in Arnside, Bristol.
Inclusion Southmead, a local residents led group, have been campaigning to urge McColl's Retail Group plc to work with the community, and ensure ‘access for all’ to their services.
The McColls Arnside branch is central to Southmead, and since the closure of all bar one of Bristol City Council’s Service Points, many residents now have no choice but to pay bills and rent at the Post Office. Suggestions to shop or bank online are just another barrier, and takes away choice from Disabled and older residents who may not have access transport or the internet.
However this shop and Post Office, like others, has been inaccessible to many Disabled and older residents for years.
Until very recently the only way to enter and leave the shop and Post Office has been through a single heavy door with a step, making it totally inaccessible for many Disabled people. The branch also has an entrance with double doors, but have been locked for a number of years. This is, apparently to ‘prevent shoplifting’, despite other shops close by having double automatic doors and level access.
As result, some Disabled people have been forced to rely on family or friends to do their shopping, pay their rent or do their Post Office banking for them. And to wait outside in the rain…
While local staff have been supportive, McColls head office have been slow to respond. Eventually, McColls wrote to say that a survey had been completed, and as a result an ‘ask for assistance’ sign and a bell were installed. However, this made residents feel even more frustrated and excluded. Even if you can see or read the sign, the bell was too high for wheelchair users and other Disabled people to reach. (1)
Inclusion Southmead’s campaign has grown through word-of-mouth, BBC Radio coverage, social media alongside support from local councillors and Disabled People Against Cuts. Then, in the week that residents gathered outside McColls to call for ‘Access For All’ the bell was lowered, and the double doors were opened. However, these were done with consulting Disabled residents. If they had asked, they would have been told that other entrance is still not accessible as it has a ‘lip’ or small step. And in any case, expecting people to ring a bell 'for help' is demeaning.
Residents do not think this is acceptable:
Everyone should have a right to equal access and to make their own choices. No one should be excluded from services in their community. (2)
We know that other branches in Bristol, and other areas of the UK are not accessible, despite McColls recent development programme. (3) McColls pride themselves on being ‘community champions’ and ‘operating responsibly,’ but this means listening and involving the community. As Disabled people we have the knowledge and experience needed to make access and inclusion happen.
Access For All!
1. Three quarters of Disabled people have left a shop or business due to feeling excluded, or badly treated,.
2. The Equality Act 2010 places a duty on businesses and services to consider in advance what Disabled people, and other people with protected characteristics need to access their services, and to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ where necessary to enable access.
3. McColls have conducted an ‘acquisition drive’, rapidly expanding to 1650 stores across the UK. The majority of local Post Offices are now sited in McColls https://www.mccollsplc.co.uk/about-us/
About Inclusion Southmead
Inclusion Southmead is a residents led group of Disabled and non-disabled people, working to make Southmead inclusive and accessible for everyone.
Inclusion Southmead is a Southmead Fourteen (Quartet) funded project working with Bristol Disability Equality Forum and The Care Forum to support local residents to increase inclusion and equality in Southmead. The project also seeks to reduce isolation, create opportunities and to address the barriers faced by residents in accessing activities, businesses, public spaces and services.
The group grew from community-led research conducted as part of the Southmead Fourteen Community Plan and Southmead Disability Research Project.
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