Weekly Poll – Town Centre Accessibility

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue.  For the week beginning 10 August 2020, we asked a question about Town Centre Accessibility. We received 26 responses.

Question 1. Have you encountered any issues with the following when navigating your town centre? 

Yes

No

Physical access to shops or premises

81%

19%

Physical access to transport links, such as stations or terminals

77%

23%

Pavements and crossings with dropped kerbs

80%

20%

Accessible wayfinding and signage

58%

42%

Street clutter such as A boards, café furniture, etc

58%

42%

Shared spaces such as cycle lanes and pedestrian walkways

92%

8%

Accessible parking bays and blue badge spaces

88%

12%

Comments

The majority of respondents had encountered issues with the accessibility of town centres. Disabled people identified the following main themes and key concerns. We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.

Physical Access to Shops or Premises

Most respondents (81%) had faced problems with physically accessing shops or premises. This includes the accessibility of entranceways and the cluttered store layouts.

“There are still many shops that do not have good access. A number of them are smaller units which simply do not have the funds to do major changes. but there are still some that just will not, for example, my local Co-Op with a big step at the entrance.”

“There are still large numbers of shops with no level access for a wheelchair. Also, shops are being cluttered making it impossible to go round them.”

“Heavy to open entrance door when the push button is not functioning. Particularly noticed this in pharmacies.”

Physical Access to Transport Links

Accessing town centres via public transport links was also found to be challenging for the majority (77%) of disabled people who responded. This was applicable to different modes of transport, with issues navigating train stations due to lack of step-free access and limited wheelchair spaces on buses.

“My local train station is totally inaccessible for wheelchair users. There is a ramp, however it is far too steep and dangerous.”

“The bus stops are not all made level for getting on the buses so if going on a journey it has to be planned to use the stops that have the raised kerbs. Apart from that, each bus has only two accessible seats and if they are occupied then you cannot get the bus anyway.”

Pavements

There were a number of respondents who faced issues with narrow pavements and a lack of dropped kerbs. With reference to narrow pavements, this makes it particularly challenging to adhere to the two-metre physical distancing rule, which was introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“There are several places in my local town centre where the pavement width is narrow for a single wheelchair never mind a chair with someone passing. This has been a danger for a long time, but little seems to have been done about it.”

“Mostly dropped kerbs with lips which are too high for a wheelchair user to get over without assistance.”

Wayfinding and Signage

Some respondents (58%) found signage to be inadequate, which resulted in challenges with town centre navigation and wayfinding for wheelchair users and people with visual impairments.  

“Signage is poor. There is some nice fancy signage with small writing but not easily visible for one with sight problems or in a wheelchair.”

“Signs which are made of brushed stainless steel and are highly reflective and non-readable during sunny periods.”

Street Clutter

On street parking and street clutter such as advertising boards, bins and planters posed challenges for some respondents. This also creates further difficulties when trying to adhere to physical distancing.

“Some of it is due to parked cars or bins and signs left out”

“Use of unlicensed A-boards on footways outside of shops. Planters placed in vulnerable footway areas for people with visual impairments.”

Accessible Parking Bays and Blue Badge

Disabled people encountered issues accessing blue badge spaces, with considerable concern for non-blue badge holders parking in blue badge spaces.

“There a few blue badge spaces and getting to them is like a maze.”

“Disrespectful non-Blue Badge holders who park in accessible parking bays. Use of non-standard signage for disabled parking.”

“I use a hoist to access my scooter, and invariably disabled parking in my area does not have dropped kerbs to allow me to access the pavement.”

Conclusion

The vast majority of disabled people who responded to the poll have faced issues with navigating town centres due to a lack of consideration for accessibility.  As the umbrella body for Access Panels, we strongly recommend that retailers, public transport providers and town centre planners across Scotland engage with their local Access Panel. More information about Access Panels can be found on the Access Panel Network website: www.accesspanelnetwork.org.uk

Disability Equality Scotland, August 2020