WNDiS

West Norfolk Disability information Service

 

Home Aims Information Access History Projects Social Model Contact Us

Access

 

 

Equal Access at the Arts Centre!

 

·       King’s Lynn Arts Centre is a brilliant building

·       It’s a mediaeval guildhall and has been running as a theatre for hundreds of years

·       We have been campaigning for a lift which will give equal access to all for (it seems like…) most of that time

·       The Borough Council finally agreed to install a lift earlier in 2007

·       Then they changed their mind!

 

 

As part of Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People’s week of Action for Access, we held a demo outside the Arts Centre, King’s St, King’s Lynn (just off the Tuesday Market Place, past The Globe) on Tuesday 18 September 2008 at midday.

 

This was for everyone who values the Arts Centre.  After the Borough Council's "Review of historical buildings" we are still waiting for the work to begin on installing a lift. Maybe more direct action is required. (April 09). 

 

 

 

 

The EHRC* has published two very useful anti-discrimination guides. One to do with employment, the other to do with access to goods and services. To find out more look at their website: www.equalityhumanrights.com and click on the your rights button. Then choose either employment or access. If you don't want to download the guide, order a free paper copy from them.

 

 

Making the DDA work

 

If you feel that you have been on the receiving end of discrimination because of your impairment it’s important to try to remedy the situation. It’s down to all of us to help make the DDA work. The law is with us but we have to give it teeth.

 

If we say or do nothing, nothing will change.

 

So, the next time you have trouble getting into a shop, or using the loo in a pub, or making yourself heard in a noisy café, or seeing the way around a dimly lit department store…….

 

·        Step One - the first step is to talk to the owner. Explain the problem. If possible, offer a solution. If this isn’t easy to spot then leave them to consider ways of making their service/premises accessible. Ask them to contact you or say that you will be back in a couple of weeks’ time.

 

If this meets with a positive reaction, give them time to come up with a solution and give them every encouragement. If the response is not so good, contact WNDiS (see below) or your local Access Group for advice and support. Equally, if you’re unsure about taking on Step One above by yourself get support in the same way.

 

·        Step Two – you return to the premises and they have obviously been thinking things through and have some good ideas for improving access. Listen carefully, discuss, offer every encouragement.

 

Or

 

You return to the premises, they haven’t given it the slightest thought, have in fact dismissed the possibility. Contact WNDiS or your local Access Group to discuss the problem. Either you or someone on your behalf (WNDiS/Access group) will then write a letter to the owner explaining the problem and offering a solution. (If this is on your behalf it will be preceded by a visit to the premises).

 

·        Step Three – if the letter brings a positive response, fine. Pin them down to a timescale – when will they be sorting out the problem?

 

If there is a negative response, it’s time to start thinking of legal action. Before you do, write again (or ask someone to do so on your behalf) pointing out that you are considering taking this step. If there is a positive reaction to this, once again get them to commit to a timescale. If not, Step Four.

 

·        Step Four – either contact the EHRC yourself [details below] or ask your support to do so, to check on whether they agree with you that this is a case of discrimination. The EHRC may be interested in taking on the case themselves, if it will set a useful precedent in law. If not, it is a case of employing a solicitor to take your case on. The initial letter from the solicitor to the owner of the premises may well be sufficient. No-one likes being taken to court, with all the costs and bad publicity generated. If it is not, on to the fifth and final step.

 

·        Step Five – the case is taken to the County Court. If/when you win, the owner of the premises has to sort out the problem; a precedent is established in law, affecting other similar premises; you receive a payment in damages (there is no upward limit on the amount of damages payable in a DDA case). Don’t be tempted to settle out of court. All that will do is give you some dosh but the problem of a lack of access won’t go away.

 

If you lose, consider taking it to appeal. Again consult the EHRC for their opinion and possible support.

 

Good luck!

 

Remember – if we do nothing, nothing changes.

 

 

Contacts

Jonathan Toye

WNDiS

West Norfolk Disability information Service (WNDiS)
14 Tuesday Market Place
King's Lynn
Norfolk PE30 1JN
01553 782558
jt@wndis.org.uk
www.wndis.org.uk
Regd Charity No: 1081847

 

 

EHRC Equality and Human Rights Commission* 

Tel: 0845 604 6610 

Text: 0845 604 6620 

e mail: englandhelpline@equalityhumanrights.com

Web: www.equalityhumanrights.com

 

Access Guide

At long last the first bit of the West Norfolk Access Guide has appeared on the streets of sunny Hunny.

 

Because it turned out to be quite a hefty tome in one whole book, the Guide is appearing in three parts. The Hunstanton Access Guide is now available, a snip at £1, from libraries in West Norfolk, Council Offices, Tourist Information Centres and various visitor attractions like Norfolk Lavender.

 

The Downham Market Access Guide is now available from all libraries, tourist offices and Council premises for £1.00

 

Freedom of access to all shops, banks, pubs, restaurants. Doesn’t sound much to ask for, does it? If you can’t see or hear very well, are wobbly on your feet or use a wheelchair to get from A to B, all sorts of barriers may block your way.

Those steps into the shop or the narrow doorway into the pub; the uneven entrance from the car park or slippery paving stones by the bus station all contribute to an unnecessary obstacle course. Why make things more awkward than they need to be?

The answer, partially, is a lack of awareness. If everybody quietly accepts the status quo and does nothing to change it then of course nothing will happen. But with the recent passing of the Disability Discrimination Act (Part 111) the law states that "all providers of services, including retailers, must provide reasonable alternative methods of service to disabled customers if necessary".

In practice, these "alternative methods" do not necessarily entail vast expense but more often a different way of thinking.    

The new Access Guide currently being researched by Jonathan Toye of WNDiS and his team of volunteers should go some way towards addressing this problem. Every public building in West Norfolk will be surveyed this year (some sample questions are shown below) and says Mr Toye, "The outcome will be twofold. We will produce a guide which should show its readers clearly which premises are easily accessible – and those which are not. Equally, the owners of the shops or pubs will begin to see what they will have to do in order to make their buildings more accessible. The whole point is that rather than merely complying with the law, we should all be able to use all public buildings without a second thought."

Some of those survey questions:

Is there level access into the building?

Is the doorway wide enough?

Are there facilities for hearing impaired people?

Are staff helpful?

 

Jonathan & students    Teams of students and other volunteers have been helping Jonathan Toye and the West Norfolk Disability information Service in the survey being carried out this year. He is pictured at Smithdon High School, Hunstanton with 6th form students who have been inspecting public buildings in the seaside resort and surrounding villages. Jonathan adds : "the idea was I went out on a dry run with the students to help them initially and they then continued the survey, which has been incorporated in their GNVQ course work. I hope to get students from other high schools in the borough helping out as well."

Volunteers who would like to help with the survey can contact Jonathan at West Norfolk Disability information Service on 01553 776177 or call in at the centre :- the office is open from 11am until  3.30pm, Monday to Friday and is located in the West Norfolk Deaf Association building opposite "Footlights" Dance Studio on Railway Road, King's Lynn.

 

Home Aims Information Access History Projects Social Model Contact Us