Council accused of patronising disabled people over city centre access

One of the new disabled bays in Monk Bar Car Park. Photographs: Richard McDougall

Campaigners have accused City of York Council of being patronising and at risk of discriminating against disabled people – after city centre streets were closed to traffic and blue badge parking changed.

A spokesperson for the council said some measures – such as the closure of Fossgate – have been reviewed and the local authority is committed to working with blue badge holders.

But that creating space for social distancing and pavement cafes was a priority.

The decision to close more streets to traffic and move blue badge parking to Monk Bar car park was taken by the council’s interim chief executive Ian Floyd, in consultation with senior officers and the council leader Keith Aspden, under emergency coronavirus powers.

Helen Jones of York Disability Rights Forum told councillors: “These fairly significant changes were communicated after they had been made and the information within the leaflet that we received was already out of date when we received it.

“The language in the leaflet was patronising.

“The way the council has behaved has shown a considerable lack of understanding about disability.”

‘Honour guard’

Access to Fossgate was limited

Wendy Loveday, chair of York Private Hire Association, added: “Disabled access by taxi for city centre streets must be reinstated before York Council is seen as guilty of discriminating against disabled people.”

Tania Parker, a disabled resident, told councillors about her experience trying to get to her hairdresser on Fossgate when the road was closed.

She said: “In the end, the two officers [at the barrier] walked one on either side of me like an honour guard.

“I certainly made an entrance – I hope I was worth it.

“The point is, some people can’t use public transport, finding it too difficult or tiring to negotiate. Some don’t use a wheelchair or scooter – I wouldn’t feel safe, and I would flatten small dogs.

“I understand the necessity of cutting back on traffic but there are exceptions.

“You have assumed all disabled people use wheelchairs or similar. They don’t.

“It is a privilege to live in York. I want to appreciate as much as I can of its beauty. Please don’t make it any more difficult for us.”

Changes have now been made to allow more people to access Fossgate.

The council has also created new blue badge bays at sites around the city centre and the free taxi service, from Monk Bar car park remains in place.

Temporary changes

James Gilchrist, the council’s assistant director for transport, told the meeting: “A lot of this is about economic recovery and it’s also obviously about public health and controlling the coronavirus.

“I’ve said it on record before, we haven’t got it right first time in every place. We’ve changed Fossgate in response to some of the experiences we got there.

“These are all temporary changes, they’re not permanent. We recognise there will be impacts on blue badge holders.

“Lots of people benefit from it but it will impact on others, but we’ve got to weigh that up against all the other benefits and the reasons why we’re doing it.”

He said the council is committed to working with blue badge holders, adding that there is no single solution because individuals have different needs.

Cllr Andy D’Agorne said: “We need to take on board the experiences of all users of the streets, but particularly those who are most vulnerable and have most difficulties with their mobility.”