Due to my disability I am a wheelchair user. I have both an electric and a manual wheelchair and was faced with the following problems whilst out in Chesterfield town centre.
Despite a vast number of laws and legislations with regards access for people with disabilities and impairments, there are still a number of establishments and shops in Chesterfield that in my view, do not meet the required standards.
This includes large steps, narrow door ways and serious lack of dropped kerbs to name but a few.
After visiting the town centre I have come across several access issues.
One of the hurdles that I faced was cobbled streets and uneven surfaces, which are not the easiest to push a wheelchair round and make it uncomfortable for the person in the wheelchair,
Followed by access to higher level floors in shops, not every establishment has a lift for wheelchair users or even push chairs.
Some buildings, due to their age, have rather narrow doorways.
Some of these doorways cannot be adapted due to the protected status on some of the older buildings in and around Chesterfield.
Certain shops do have either adaptations or aids to assist people with disabilities/impairments, for example braille for the blind or the use of a hearing loop system for the deaf. However, quite a large number of shops have quite a high payment desk, making it difficult for wheelchair users to reach comfortably to make their payment.
Which brings me onto my next point, the use of card machines and cash machines.
I found that when opting to pay by card, some card machines are fixed to a certain permanent position, making it almost impossible for certain individuals to reach.
I had an issue when attempting to withdraw cash from some cash machines.
This was because I could not either see the screen due to the glare from the sun or due to the cash machine being positioned too highly in the wall, making it hard for me to enter my pin code. Cash machines are also not very private for wheelchair users as we cannot block the view of others with our bodies as we are much lower down in a chair. Another slight issue whilst shopping was the amount of free floor space within shops.
This made it hard for me to browse comfortably and freely without either knocking into objects or even other shoppers.
On a far better note, there are shops in Chesterfield that have made a very conscious effort to make the buildings accessible and inclusive for all.
Some shops have ramps and lifts to assist wheelchair users, some have automatic doors and lowered payment desks.
Supermarkets have also wide aisles and also provide wheelchairs along with trolleys that can be attached to wheelchairs.
I have found that the majority of staff members are extremely patient and friendly and always willing to help.
Whilst I admit that shops and buildings have improved their attitudes towards accessibility, I am still very firmly of the opinion that we have a long way to catch up with other parts of the world.
l See next week’s DT as Nathan investigates pub accessibility.