I Can Do That column: “It’s great that the council is committed to making Liverpool one of the most accessible cities, but what about those bad experiences?”

By Tom Dowling

It’s great that the City Council seems determined to make Liverpool one of the most accessible cities in the UK.

And the new rewards program encouraging our tourist attractions, hotels and hospitality venues to welcome everyone, from the visually impaired to moms who want to breastfeed, deserves our kudos.

Cllr Harry Doyle, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Culture and Visitor Economy, said: “We want our city to become a model of best practice accessibility, thanks to our community and our business leaders who plead for places and spaces accessible to all. ”

And wheelchair user Cllr Pam Thomas, Chief of Staff for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, adds: “It’s a win-win situation for everyone because inclusive and accessible spaces attract more large clientele, which is good for business, economic development and tourism.

“If someone has a good experience, they will tell other people about it and come back.”

The museum. Photo: Liverpool ECHO

But what about those bad experiences – like the ones I’ve had many times over the years in my wheelchair?

You’d think the real gems of the city – places like the World Museum, Walker Art Gallery and St George’s Hall – would have superb indoor and outdoor access.

Unfortunately no. These cobblestones and atrocious parking lots combine to make this a totally off-limits area for me and probably thousands of wheelchair users as well.

I’ve lost count of the times I had to turn my car around and get something else to do, and also the times I nearly fell out of my chair due to cobblestones or uneven slabs in the parking areas of William Brown Street and St George’s Hall.

Maybe the council will set up research groups that include people with various disabilities to really look at this and help bring the city leaders’ vision to life.

Ensuring people with disabilities are at the heart of how their services operate is, in fact, what all councils are told now.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said: “It is essential that local service providers put the needs of people with disabilities at the heart of any decision about how services are designed and delivered.

“It’s not enough for them to leave this as an add-on or an afterthought – and allowing people with different needs access to their services shouldn’t be seen as a disadvantage.”

The Equality Act 2010 requires local services to ensure people with disabilities can access their services as easily as people without disabilities, and this will often involve councils making ‘reasonable adjustments’ to enable them to do.

This may involve providing information in large print to people who are visually impaired, providing translation services to people who are deaf or hard of hearing, or allowing people with dyslexia to access services over the phone rather than completing online forms.

Mr King added: ‘If people feel that their reasonable adjustments have not been met, they should let their local authority know and then come to us if they don’t put things right.

“I urge local authorities to read my report and consider whether any of the services they provide disadvantage people with disabilities.”

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