Those of us who are unable to work due to disability or illness are in the middle of a change from Incapacity Benefit (IB) to Employment and Supprt Allowance (ESA). Under the old IB test, one thing considered was whether you could walk, and if so, how far. The ESA test replaces this with the activity of "mobilising" with or without a walking stick, manual wheelchair, or other aid.
So, it seems, the Government is assuming that the environment is now so accessible, and technology so advanced, that mobilising using a manual wheelchair is no different from walking. But is this really the case? And even if it is, are currently able-bodied people getting in the way of disabled people using it?
Being part of the mainstream isn't so easy when a major music venue (*cough* Brixton Academy *cough*) has this as its idea of accessibility..
At least they'd made the attempt though. All that's required is that service providers make "reasonable adjustments". What is "reasonable" depends (among other things) on the cost of the adjustment and the size and resources of the organisation. The small pharmacy I use has a step at the entrance, and it would be difficult to have a ramp: so they've installed a doorbell at the door, meaning that I and others who can't get in can summon someone to help us. Clearly it's not ideal transacting my pharmacy business on the pavement, but I think in view of the size of the business and the costs of installing a ramp, the adjustment they've made is reasonable.
Big Society? Insofar as anyone can work out what the phrase means, part of it seems to involve people taking an active role in their communities. Even if people don't want to get involved in voluntary work, you would think that the bare minimum would be having a tiny bit of consideration to make sure that others are able to move around.
Except that those seem to be qualities in short supply. Few of the houses in my street have off-street parking, and even among those that do, many have more than one car. So parking spaces are in high demand. If I happen to be out (It does happen. Occasionally) I can guarantee that the space will be filled when I get back.
My car is modified to be wheelchair accessible. It's great - totally designed round my needs, completely accessible. I get into it up a ramp at the back, and have a large sticker in the back window saying "Wheelchair access needed - please leave at least 3 metres space". Yeah, you can guess what happens. Parked right up to the bumper.
Then there's drop kerbs. The other day, I made it out as far as my local shop. Came out, up the hill to the junction. But someone had parked across the dropped kerb...so back downhill, right to the shop again, down the drop kerb there, back up the hill in the road, and finally across the junction. Now fortunately I was using my power wheelchair so going three times the distance someone walking would have to was no extra effort. But an environment so accessible that using a chair is no different from walking? Uh...no, I don't think so.
You know when you read in the paper about some elderly person being picked up by the police driving their mobility scooter down the hard shoulder of the motorway? Well, I don't reckon they have confusion at all. I think they're just trying to find a drop kerb that mobody's parked across.