Jane Holmes Blog: Great to see new town centre, but shops must be disabled-friendlyBy Jane Holmes
March 12, 2013
Jane Holmes is chief executive of Wokingham-based charity Building for the Future which provides support and activities for disabled children.
She set up the charity after her daughter Kitty was born with severe cerebral palsy.
It’s great to see that plans for the town centre regeneration are finally underway. Wokingham has great potential, wonderful people and a rich history.
But, let’s face it, at the moment it could be prettier. And it definitely deserves to be.
I hope, therefore, that the access for disabled people will vastly improve, along with the road system and the layout of the streets.
I hope that consideration will be given to the width of pavements, to drop kerbs in places where wheelchairs are likely to need them, to the provision of accessible toilets and to the doorways. I hope that the parking provision, which is already pretty good, remains so.
But of course, even with the best outdoor provision in the world, if you can’t access the local businesses, there isn’t much point.
Wheelchair access in some of the shops and restaurants is dire.
Either there are steps leading up to the door, with no ramp apparent, or the displays or tables inside are so close together that there is no way even a child’s wheelchair can get through.
I can understand wanting to pack as much stock into a shop as possible, but surely even the most enterprising retailer wouldn’t want to do so to the exclusion of customers.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to plough my daughter’s wheelchair through racks full of clothes usually, to her joy, ending up with most of them on her lap.
We’ve battered breakables off shelves, gouged chunks out of doorframes and blocked customers from using aisles.
Unless someone happens to be around to open a door, I have to ram my daughter through it, hard, forcing it open with her heavy, metal footplate.
Surely this is not ideal for anyone. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: disabled people are on the increase. Medical science means that brain damaged babies, stroke victims and the elderly live longer.
And so they should, every living person deserves a decent quantity of life.
But everyone deserves a quality of life too.
And disabled people’s money is just as good as anyone else’s.