Doncaster Voices: Doncaster.... is it truly disabled friendly town?

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If you want to get involved in DFP weekly Voices forum, submit 150 words, name, title & photo to barbara.craythorn@jpress.co.uk and your views may appear next week when the timely subject, marking March 20 spring start, is “What spring clean would you give Doncaster?”

TONY CRITCHLEY, PARENT OF DISABLED CHILD

As a family with a child that is a wheelchair user, we find accessing Doncaster town centre can be a frustrating task. Parking is a major problem - people may say that there are plenty of spaces to park, but that number drastically reduces when you need a minimum of 3 metres behind your car to drop the ramp to exit and enter the car. The more accessible parking spaces are on the outskirts of the town centre. Nit picking it may sound, but it’s something that we need to consider before we set off. Once in town, we find the larger shops more accessible and wheelchair friendly - the smaller shops tend to pack so much in that it is near impossible to navigate through so we tend to bypass them.

Access to public amenities is also a massive issue for us. Our son needs to be hoisted in and out of his chair. I believe there is now an accessible toilet in the Frenchgate Centre - we’ve never used this so not sure it meets our needs. We tend to go in and visit the places we need to go and return home, which is a shame because our son likes looking at different things. With our son we don’t have the opportunity to go and browse shops, to do that we have to go out of Doncaster to the larger shopping centres ie Meadowhall. For us going to Doncaster with our son is something we do if we really need to. It’s hard enough having a disability but it’s even harder being disabled by society.

ETHAN OSBORNE, CHAIRPERSON, LADDER GROUP & DONCASTER YOUTH COUNCILLOR

As a disabled wheelchair user, who has lived in Doncaster all my life, short answer is “no”. While Doncaster is improving with physical access – dropped kerbs, ramps and signage – some lifts can’t accommodate motorised wheelchairs, some only allowing my wheelchair in, but not carer, often seen trying to beat the lift so they can help me when I get to my floor. Shops have displays far too close so wheelchair users can’t go in and browse, also affecting people with ‘hidden’ disabilities. Young Persons Disability Forum (LADDER Group) members with mental health, autism or learning disabilities are made to feel inadequate due to lack of understanding by public and staff in shops and on public transport. Way forward to fully disabled friendly Doncaster is educating young about all disabilities and more physical adaptations.

ANDREW GOODALL, HEALTHWATCH DONCASTER CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER

As a gatherer of service user experiences of health and social care services, Healthwatch Doncaster is keen to hear from wheelchair users and that’s why we’ve partnered with Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust (RDASH) to create the wheelchair forum. After regular discussions with RDASH on how best to capture stories from wheelchair users on their journeys in using local health and social care services, Healthwatch Doncaster is promoting this opportunity to help generate debate and receive data that can be fed back to service providers. We hope this forum will allow people like Ethan to share their stories on accessing health and social care services so it can be fed back to commissioners. We are looking for people to be part of the forum so that they can challenge, support and improve the quality of wheelchair services and we are actively encouraging people to become part of the forum so that personal experiences can influence change and development. We can collect your views at www.healthwatchdoncaster.org.uk/feedback where people who use services and experience positive or negative issues relating to accessibility, can let us – and others – aware of their story. I would encourage those who want to relay their story to aid improvements, to get in touch with Healthwatch Doncaster on 01302 965450 or email: elle.smith@healthwatchdoncaster.org.uk to register your interest to get involved with the Forum.”

LAURA ANDREW, DONCASTER RESIDENT

I must admit I’ve never considered this question before. As someone who is able bodied, I take things like access for granted in my daily life. Which makes me feel a little guilty! We should all be doing more to make sure every member of our society feels comfortable and safe when they’re out in the community. If people who are disabled say they need more support and funding from the government, then we should listen to their concerns and be allies in their journey. Perhaps more lifts and ramps can be installed in the town centre to make sure that everyone has equal access to shops, restaurants and all the social events in Doncaster. I think Doncaster should be more tolerant towards minorities and treat both seen and invisible disabilities with more compassion, even if you don’t suffer yourself.

* If you want to get involved in DFP weekly Voices forum, submit 150 words, name, title & photo to barbara.craythorn@jpress.co.uk and your views may appear next week when the timely subject, marking March 20 spring start, is “What spring clean would you give Doncaster?”