In 2005, Tony Blair, as Prime Minister, ordered an investigation into ways to improve the quality of life for the many disabled members of the population in Britain. Discrimination and disadvantage has always existed for people less physically able; this investigation was designed to tackle those issues head-on.
The report highlighted how up to a fifth of the country is potentially limited by a disability or injury at any one time, cutting people off from opportunities other people can enjoy. Ultimately, the findings of the report show that the economy suffers, as does society, because people’s potential is not used to the full.
It’s a matter of debate as to how successful that government was in achieving its aims. Over the last 10 years, there’s certainly been a marked improvement in overall access for disabled people in terms of public spaces and facilities. Better provision of adapted vehicles, improved parking spaces and lowering of curbs have all helped people get around with greater ease.
The report set out an ambitious plan to give disabled people full access to opportunities and choices by 2025. Although many measures were put in place (as evidenced in many high streets and city centres), two years after the report was drafted, a world recession kicked in – the consequence of which was massive cutbacks, especially in municipal services and improvements. Inevitably, many strategies for further continued improvements for the disabled fell under the axe as local authority purse-strings grew ever tighter.
So unfortunately, it is still the case for many people to require special assistance when it comes to things like catching a train from a station that hasn’t been adapted to cater for disabilities. This usually needs a call to the station at least 24 hours ahead in order to make arrangements. Some people say it’s like a lottery in terms of the quality of assistance, depending on the rail line operator being used.
Frustratingly, it’s often relatively simple adjustments that are needed in a lot of cases. Instead of special adaptations and expensive devices, sometimes it is just a change in attitudes that will improve the quality of service for many people. Although schemes are now in place and attitudes are changing, it can seem a frustratingly slow process for some.
Even a station with good facilities won’t be much help if the infrastructure of the town they live in is poor. If you live in a hilly area and the bus service doesn’t reach you, widened access at the nearest train station is small comfort if you experience even mild disability and find getting out and about difficult.
There will be some improvements where you live, but inevitably there will still be much more to do. To find out how you or someone you know might be affected, think in terms of your own local services and what provisions have been made near to where you live.
To find disability information and advice services that are local to you, make use of a free online directory service like London Directory Lists. You’ll be able to locate services and provisions run by and for disabled people. Additionally, you might find great community support in your neighbourhood. Use London Directory Lists, the UK business directory, to see if there’s anything near you.
counselling, disability, disabled, disabled access, healthcare, London Underground, mental health, online directory, tube