Letter to Mike Penning – Minister for Disabled People

Dear Mr Penning

Making Great Barr great for Disabled People

My name is Aideen Blackborough and I have Cerebral Palsy.  I use an electric wheelchair to get around and run my own training business which focuses on Equality and Diversity.

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”.

I compiled the enclosed report and hand delivered it to the 81 retailers in the area, as well as sending copies to Sandwell Council and my local MP, Tom Watson.  The response from all parties was extremely disappointing.  Just one of the 81 retailers responded and it took Sandwell Council six months to respond.

In a letter dated 18th September, the Council requested the details of those retailers who were considered to be completely inaccessible, “in order that we can write to them reminding them of their duties under the Equality Act.”  I subsequently provided this information to the council but in their next letter, dated 20th December, the council did a complete U-turn by stating, “Unfortunately, the council does not have sufficient resources to send follow up letters to those premises that have not responded to your report.”

The Council have passed the buck to me and  they seem to think that I have the time and resources to do this work for them:  “…the council’s Access Officer in our Street Scene Directorate is happy to email you a guidance document that may be of use to you which sets out the responsibilities of premise owners under the Equalities Act…”  The retailers have already ignored my initial letter and report so even if I did circulate this guidance document, it is unlikely to have any impact.  The very fact that the council has the guidance document is indicative of the fact that they should be sending it out to local businesses.  Please could you clarify who is responsible for enforcing the Equality Act 2010?

It is clear from my report that the Equality Act 2010 is being totally ignored by local businesses but the council is totally unwilling to do anything about it.  Their responses thus far have focused on the fact that Building Regulations and accessibility requirements can only be reinforced with new buildings which require planning permission.  However, the council have totally overlooked the responsibility that all businesses have to make reasonable adjustments so that disabled customers can access their goods and services.  As I am sure you are aware, the majority of reasonable adjustments do not require businesses to make major structural changes.

It is completely unacceptable that twenty years on from the Disability Discrimination Act, I am still fighting for access for disabled people.  It is about time that the Equality Act was properly enforced rather than being a piece of legislation which is merely paid lip service.  As the council are refusing to address this issue, I am escalating it to you in the hope that you may be able to support my campaign and help me to make Great Barr great for its disabled residents.

Thank-you for your time.

Yours sincerely

Aideen Blackborough

Copied to: Jan Britton, Sandwell Council Chief Executive

This entry was posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Disability Equality, Equality & Diversity, Equality Act 2010, Great Barr Great Campaign. Bookmark the permalink.