The population of the UK contains a high proportion of “disabled” people. According to Government statistics they actually represent 22% of the population (that’s 13.9 million people). In London a borough such as Lewisham reports that 15% of the population consider themselves disabled.
Disabled people face numerous problems such as access to health services and access to employment. They often rely on “carers” for assistance with many activities such as shopping.
How do Low Traffic Neighbourhoods such as the Healthy Neighbourhood plans (and associated road closures) in Lewisham and other boroughs affect them? We certainly know from the numbers responding to our campaign against the road closures that a very large number of them object to the road closures.
The problem is that many disabled people rely on motor vehicles for transport as they have difficulty using public transport and suggestions that they should cycle are treated with derision. They also often cannot walk far. They don’t just own cars and use them, they use taxi services or get transported by carers in vehicles. In addition, they often have support from social service workers who use vehicles to get around.
For example, this is one comment just received “I strongly disagree with these closures, I work for the Borough of Lewisham and respond to vulnerable clients in the Borough. These road closures have delayed us responding to our clients, and one day the outcome will result in more serious consequences. Sitting in traffic, unable to access roads, this is not solving anything. If anything the situation is causing more pollution, congestion and more aggressive drivers. The fact that we as residents of the borough were not consulted is not acceptable”.
Life has become much more difficult for disabled people since the road closures were introduced in Lewisham with much extended journey times as a result. Simply accessing Lewisham hospital is a common complaint.
Has Lewisham Council considered the impact of the road closures on disabled people? In other words, have they done an “Equality Impact Assessment” as required by the Equalities Act 2010? So far as we are aware they have not done so. Paul Howarth submitted a Freedom of Information Act request on this subject back in February but does not appear to have received an answer – see https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/the_so_called_healthy_neighborho
Just like the lack of public consultation, it seems the Covid-19 epidemic is being used to bypass and abandon the normal requirements for new road schemes.
An interesting recent publication from Lewisham Council was from the Stronger Communities Select Committee (see https://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?MId=6323&x=1 ). The Council is reviewing its obligations under the Equalities Act and have produced a draft report. But perhaps surprisingly they don’t cover this issue. Note that Lee Green Ward Councillors James Rathbone and Jim Mallory actually sit on this Committee so they should surely take a great interest in the impact of the road closures on the disabled community but not obviously so to date.
Lewisham has also created a “Disabled Peoples’ Commission” chaired by Jamie Hale – see https://labourlist.org/2020/02/our-disabled-peoples-commission-can-identify-barriers-and-deliver-change/ . I suggest disabled people who have been affected by the road closures in Lewisham ask the Commission to represent their interests.
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