IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Barred! Islington wheelchair users are blocked by new gate

Disability rights campaigner claims ‘deteriorating’ access is leading to isolation

17 May, 2019 — By Emily Finch

Campaigner Andy Greene’s videos show access problems. ‘It’s a perfect storm of people not thinking it through’

THE Town Hall has come under attack for a “deterioration” in how it caters for the accessibility needs of elderly and disabled residents – failures which campaigners warn lead to isolation.

Leading disability rights campaigner Andy Greene said that he has seen an increase in the number of roads in Islington becoming inaccessible to him in his wheelchair in recent years.

The Disability Action in Islington campaigner said: “There’s a general deterioration in the council meeting obligations in planning and enforcement to make sure new developments and roads are accessible to people in wheelchairs.”

Mr Greene is making a video series with campaigners from Cycle Islington, concentrating first on St Peter’s ward in the south of the borough.

He said that the council’s failure to install a drop kerb in Baldwin Terrace, off St Peter’s Street, is cutting off his access to the canal.

He also said a new gate blocking vehicle access to Popham Street means he cannot go through the area to get to Essex Road.

“It’s a perfect storm of people not thinking it through,” he said. “Everyone has collective responsibility, whether it’s the local housing associations or the council.

“What needs to happen is people need to be talked to and brought into this because decisions have been made without any accountability or responsibility and it’s having a huge impact.”

He highlights how he cannot access pavements on the Packington estate, managed by housing association giant Hyde, because parked cars are allowed to block the lowered kerbs.

Mr Greene said: “A poorly-built and designed environment leads to more and more disabled and elderly people becoming isolated within the community.

“An accessible built environment can mitigate that and stop people being isolated. There’s been a sharp rise in disability hate crime in the borough and disabled people who are isolated are easier to target. Poorly-built environments and a rise in hate crime, it’s all linked.”

As previously reported in the Tribune, Islington had the highest number of disability hate crime offences recorded in the capital in 2018, with victims enduring online bullying, verbal and physical abuse and damage to property.

Mr Greene took part in the council’s “inclusive mobility group” a few months ago which looked at how to improve access for disabled people.

“It was good to engage with senior planning officials, but it should not be as a one-off,” he said. “There must be long-term engagement and something at the end once a project is completed to evaluate what’s happened.”

A council spokeswoman said that residents can email PublicRealm@islington.gov.uk to highlight any accessibility issues they encounter.

“The council takes accessibility seriously and any new highway improvement schemes or renewal works are designed to meet Transport for London’s Healthy Street Standards, which include guidelines for mobility access,” she said.

“Historically, like most of London, many of the borough’s buildings and streets were designed without a focus on accessibility, which leads to accessibility pinch-points. Where we have become aware of particular areas with accessibility issues we will review them. We invite residents to get in touch with us to discuss any issues they identify.

“We are also actively working with disability access groups to identity barriers and explore alternatives.”

A spokeswoman for Hyde Housing said that “roads and kerbs have been built in accordance with Islington Highways guidelines”, adding: “As part of the S38 agreement, Islington Council has been to the Packington estate on a regular basis to inspect the ongoing work to roads and pavements.

“However, if there are any errors, we will consult with the highways department [at the council] and make any necessary changes.”

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