Monday 15 September 2008

Footpaths a nightmare for disabled users, survey finds

FOOTPATHS ARE a disabled person’s worst nightmare thanks to inconsiderate motorists parking on them, householders leaving bins on them and local authorities neglecting to repair potholes.

That is the main finding of new research from Enable Ireland which conducted a survey to establish the biggest obstacles people with disabilities have accessing all areas.

The results indicate infrastructure is the single biggest barrier in the lives of most people with disabilities.

Some 28 per cent of those taking part in the online survey voted this their biggest access barrier out of five options presented to them.

Other major barriers included employment (cited by 21 per cent of respondents as a major issue), transport (cited by 19 per cent), social and leisure activities (noted by 18 per cent) and education (cited by 14 per cent).

Apart from footpaths, other infrastructural barriers mentioned by participants included shops with two floors but no lift to access the higher level, shops which pack in commodities so no walking frame or wheelchair can get between the aisles, restaurants and other buildings which are not wheelchair accessible and toilets which are too small.

One participant from Blackrock in Dublin made the following comment about the difficulties she encounters on her way to work every day: “I encounter many barriers on the footpaths along the way. Pot-holes, roadworks, and uneven surfaces all make my journey very difficult and even dangerous.

“But the one thing that makes me really angry is drivers who park their cars on the footpath without any regard for wheelchair users. They just don’t care about wheelchair users and that makes me mad.”

Another participant wrote: “My biggest access issue is with footpaths in my local area of Tallaght.”

The results of the survey were released in advance of Enable Ireland’s annual fundraising and awareness week, Action Week on Disability, which begins today.

Kate Raymond, director of services with Enable Ireland in Dublin, urged the general public to be more aware of the barriers people with disabilities can face in their daily lives.

“We all have a role to play in making Ireland an equal place to live in regardless of ability. Whether you are a shop owner, a public servant, a bus driver or a private car driver, there are small changes that we can all make to improve access for everyone,” she said.

The Irish Times

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