The following letter has been sent to the main political leaders, with a slightly different version for David Cameron, which follows on from our previous correspondence. Let’s see what responses we get. . .
Making Great Barr great for Disabled People
My name is Aideen Blackborough and I have had Cerebral Palsy since birth. Although I have some mobility, I use an electric wheelchair to get from A to B and rely heavily on my wheelchair in order to maintain my independence. In 2011, I gave up a full-time management position in a charity in order to focus on building my own training business which specialises in Equality and Diversity issues. Being disabled, it’s something very close to my heart and I set it up not only to try and earn a living, but to try and make a difference to other people’s lives.
In May 2012, my husband and I relocated from Reading to my childhood home of Great Barr in Birmingham. Upon returning to the area, I began to notice how inaccessible the local area was for disabled people and after doing a considerable amount of research, I launched a campaign to “Make Great Barr great for Disabled People”.
At my own expense, I compiled an extensive access report and despite being pregnant with my first baby, I hand delivered it to the 81 retailers in the area, as well as sending copies to Sandwell Council and my local MP, Tom Watson. I offered the retailers help and support to become more accessible; an offer which none of them accepted. In fact, the response from all parties was extremely disappointing. Just one of the 81 retailers responded to say that their head office would look at the report and it took Sandwell Council six months to respond. Tom Watson’s response was equally disappointing.
In April 2014, I brought the campaign to the attention of the Prime Minister’s office, having exhausted all other options to get the campaign noticed. I was advised that the matter had been forwarded to the Department for Communities and Local Government. Despite that being the second time that they had been made aware of my report, I have still not received a reply or even an acknowledgement.
My report and campaign have highlighted several instances where the Equality Act 2010 is being blatantly ignored and yet nobody seems willing to anything about it. Although my report highlights local issues, I can assure you that this is not just a local problem. Having lived in several different areas and travelled extensively, I could provide countless examples of businesses who have absolutely no regard for the Equality Act.
As a disabled person trying to contribute to society, I feel like I am playing on a field that is far from level and that my efforts simply are not valued as much as other people’s. With the general election looming, I would like to know what your party intends to do to improve the lives of disabled people and ensure that the Equality Act is effectively enforced?
I look forward to your response.