Some residents have been silently struggling with the problems of everyday life, often getting older and less mobile, perhaps also with a disability which may or may not be obvious. Simple tasks like popping into McColl’s and to the Post Office has been a difficult and frustrating challenge. We, the members of a group called Inclusion Southmead, have been meeting to find out what could be done to help and understand these challenges. These issues often lead to people becoming isolated and lonely, and we are working with them, and other groups, to address some of the barriers faced by residents in accessing places in Southmead.
Inclusion Southmead is working with the Bristol Disability Equality Forum, and The Care Forum, to support residents to increase inclusion and equality in Southmead, with a focus on learning about life from the perspective of a disabled or elderly person. Sometimes disability is clearly visible, other times not so visible, and this can make things harder for the person and for other people to understand. For example, for people living with epilepsy the impact on their lives is often due to negative attitudes, the lack of support available, and incorrect treatment.
But whatever our needs as disabled people, we all sometimes need a little extra help or assistance to do things. Inclusion Southmead is a resident-led group of volunteers working in Southmead to gain improvements for everyone. We are currently working on several projects. The first is to gain better access to McColl’s and the Post Office in Arnside. Wheelchair and mobility-scooter users have been unable to access the shop due to the heavy doors and the displays of merchandise blocking doors. When it rains, disabled people are left sitting outside as their family or carers go into the shop on their behalf.
In 2018, with equality law placing duties on businesses, this is not acceptable. So Inclusion wrote to McColl’s asking for something to be done. At first it felt like we weren’t being listened to. Being polite people, we wrote to McColl’s and asked them to consider our points and to support the community. Progress was slow but eventually, in response to our letters, a sign and bell were fixed to the outside of the shop so that, in theory, a disabled person could ring the bell to be served. However, the bell is too high for a wheelchair user to reach! We all agreed that this situation had become intolerable.
Inclusion Southmead decided to hold an Access For All Day outside McColl’s on Saturday 21st April. At the time of writing, we are approaching the big day and spreading the word. With help from our Councillors Brenda and Helen, and BBC Radio Bristol, the appetite for change is growing. There is a buzz from the press, with interviews happening in the media and the BBC speaking to McColl’s to gain a picture of the issue from both sides.
Next month’s edition of The Mead will have photos of the event and a progress update.
To find out the date of the next Inclusion Southmead meeting, please contact Mike by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
or call 0117 914 0528