Words try to hide government’s callous views on disability equality

Words give news, they give views, they tell the truth – but they can also hide the truth and deceive people.

As examples, take a look at these:

  •  “The government agrees …”
  • “The government recognises …”
  • “The government notes …”
  • “The government agrees …”

These led not to acceptance but dismissal of most of a list of recommendations designed to benefit people with disabilities.

Sajid Javid MP.

In fact, these phrases were used in the government’s response to the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee report ‘Building for Equality: Disability and the Built Environment’.

Presented to Parliament by the secretary of state for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, the response rejected the vast majority of the 23 recommendations made by the committee.

Such words were designed to make it appear that those recommendations were carefully and thoroughly considered. But, in reality, it is far more likely that they have been used in an attempt to deceive us. To put it plainly, I believe that the government rejected 20 of those recommendations outright. It then tried to hide its callous decisions behind intentionally deceptive words.

The full list of recommendations, together with the government responses, can be viewed here.

Equality response ‘very disappointing’

Disability Rights UK deputy chief executive Sue Bott told Disability News Service: “The government response is very disappointing.”


Sue Bott, deputy chief executive of Disability Rights UK.

She said there was “little to cheer about”, except the government’s decision [although this was not in response to a recommendation of the committee]to commence long-awaited measures in the Equality Act 2010 that will impose a duty on landlords to allow reasonable access improvements to be made to the common parts of blocks of flats, such as entrances and stairs (see separate story).  

She added: “It seems that access to the built environment is anyone and everyone’s responsibility except the government’s.”

The women and equalities committee said it was too early to comment on the government’s response.

Asked why the government had rejected so many recommendations, an MHCLG spokesman agreed that the government had accepted just three of the report’s recommendations.

But he said: “We fully recognise the importance of accessibility and inclusion when making decisions relating to the built environment.

Mere words again. The government may recognize the importance, but its words don’t equal action. Then, as far as disability is concerned, this government general takes negative action – or no action at all.  Positive action that would benefit the disabled remains an anathema to it.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

Suitable for those with disabilities? Maybe not

Shared facilities are not the answer.

Shared facilities are not the answer.

Restrooms or toilets provided for people with disabilities often fail to live up to the promises they appear to make. Probably, this is more to do with lack of planning and foresight but also may be influenced by available space. Too often, though, it might be due to finances.

It is bad enough for those who can manage to walk with some assistance but for wheelchair users the situation is more difficult and an extended wait may even be disastrous. I know that from personal experience as MS makes using a wheelchair a necessity and has given me a bladder problem.

There are a number of issues that, for me, make a facility supposedly put there for us, really unsuitable for a person with a disability who is using a wheelchair. And here, for the moment, I am talking about someone who can transfer himself or herself from the chair to the seat itself.

These issues are:

  • Where there is a need to share the same room with baby changing facilities;

I cannot remember how many times I have had to wait while mum or dad copes with two or three children, often without a baby at all;

  • Where a room for disabled people is located within a single-gender washroom;

Oh great, I am being pushed in a manual wheelchair by my wife. I cannot manouevre the chair myself and my wife cannot enter the ‘Gents’ to enable me to reach the facilities I need. Ridiculous design. The only answer? Ask a passing man to help me.

  • Where a room is not large enough to cope with a wheelchair;

Somehow, I get inside, just, and manage to fasten the door – but there is so little room that it is difficult to transfer from the wheelchair and back again.

  • Where the emergency pull cord has been tied up or shortened to be out of reach of children.

Yes, I know that they have had problems with children pulling the cord. Yes, I know that it seems like a good idea putting it beyond their reach. BUT, if someone falls on the floor and cannot get up, how is he or she going to summon assistance?

Accessibility does not just mean ramps and level entrances; it does not even just mean accessible parking spaces. It does include the provision of toilet facilities for the disabled and by ‘accessible’ I mean that they need to be: dedicated for such use, not multi-purpose; readily available for people of either gender, not placed inside a ‘Ladies’ or ‘Gents’; large enough to take a wheelchair and allow easy and comfortable transfer; provided with a proper method to call for help if someone has fallen.

Of course, besides the basics, there are needs for even more aids such as hoists, for those who cannot transfer themselves, as well as an adult-sized table or bench to enable a carer to change incontinence pads.

Oh, just one more thing, if you don’t have a disability, please don’t be tempted to use our special room. We need it; you are very fortunate not to do so.

Andalucía: Great scenery, fantastic weather and improving accessibility for those with disabilities

andalucia name

andalucia scenery andalucia beach

There can be absolutely no doubt that the area of Andalucía in the south of Spain is a lovely place to visit on holiday. There are many places to visit, fantastic and varying landscapes plus gorgeous Mediterranean beaches.

   And all this while enjoying the very best of Europe’s weather. Of course, it is a wonderful place to live, too. My wife Lisa and I moved here last November but that is another story.

   Getting around most places in Andalucía, and elsewhere in Spain for that matter, is not a problem for the majority of people. Similarly, access to buildings is largely pretty easy and not worth a second thought.

   Not worth a second thought, that is, as long as you are able-bodied. For those who have physical disabilities, however, it is not always so easy but tourist sites and hotels are fine and generally the situation is getting better. Accessibility is something that matters to me as my mobility problems, caused by multiple sclerosis (esclerosis múltiple in Spanish), mean that I’m in a wheelchair when out and about.

   Now, in more modern towns and cities, or in developments that have taken place relatively recently, there are few problems. In Andalucía, you can see real differences.

   In many towns the pedestrian crossings regularly alternate between those at road level and those at pavement height; the latter also serving as traffic calming ramps. But, for a wheelchair-user, both are easy to cross because the road-level ones have proper dropped pavements each side while the pavement-level ones are just that, flat and level.

   However, not all dropped pavements are as good. In older towns, originally built well before the invention of motor vehicles, some facilities for the disabled have been added but not always with sufficient thought.

   To see this, we need look no further than the road right behind the medical centre in Cuevas del Almanzora, in Andalucía’s Almería province.. There, someone has felt the need to install a dropped pavement, which is a good idea for wheelchairs – so close to the medical centre. But why on earth has the bottom of it been left well above the road level? Dropped from the pavement height it may be but there is still a significant step to overcome. Words fail me.

   Then there is one pedestrian crossing with a dropped pavement on one side of the road but a full height kerb on the other. Of course, tourists and my fellow British expats may be tempted to laugh at such a situation but I could show everyone an example of something similar in the UK. There, a crossing has a dropped pavement on each side but, having crossed the roadway, you are then left on an island with a kerb to negotiate to enter the car park.

   Actually, talking about car parking, that reminds me about people from other countries using disabled parking facilities.  Disabled parking cards issued by any EU country are recognised throughout Europe but how they may be used depends on the rules of the country in which you are parking.

   So, a holder of the disabled blue badge from Britain must remember that here in Spain it does NOT give you the right to park in a ‘no parking’ zone like it does on yellow lines in the UK; it simply gives the authority to park in a bay designated for that purpose.

   Finally, a word about access to buildings. Fair’s fair, this is improving throughout Spain but we have to realise that what may be desirable may not always be possible. What can we do, for example, about an old town post office with its door at the top of five steps and with no room for a ramp or a lift? Not a lot.

   However, in the same town, the branch of one bank, Banco Popular, with a step up to its door has recently been completely refurbished, including moving the door to eliminate the step and provide a flat and level entrance. Good planning for those with disabilities and parents with children in strollers.



MS is the driving force behind our move to Spain

There were a number of factors which lead Lisa and I to want to move, then to decide roughly where to go and finally to choose what we consider to be our perfect home but, without a doubt, multiple sclerosis was – and is – the main incentive.

Let me explain. Taking things in order, we realised that our present rented flat is not suitable to convert to being totally wheelchair friendly if my MS deteriorates enough for me to reach that stage. Currently, I do not use a wheelchair at home, only when I am out and about. But we had to think of what the future could hold, so we needed a place that either was already suitable or could be easily converted if the need does arise.

Secondly, we knew that my former marital home was for sale and a deal would be likely to be finalised by the summer and then I would have just six months to spend it on a new home without my benefits being affected.

So, having decided to move, we then started to look. We scoured websites like Rightmove that are popular ways for estate agents to advertise properties they have for sale but nothing seemed to match our needs.

We were getting fed up with the weather and we both wished for more sunshine. Also, we had noticed that my MS symptoms seemed to get worse as temperatures changed; more consistent weather was called for. Then, one day we were talking about our holiday two years ago when, on my November birthday, we had been sitting outside a Barcelona bar sipping Sangria in the sunshine. And that was when I suggested to Lisa that we should move to the south of Spain.

She was unsure at first as she didn’t want me to later regret leaving the nation of my birth. No such trouble for her though, as Lisa left the USA more than three years ago. Also, for the 18 years before she moved to Wales she lived in Florida so had become used to hotter temperatures. Anyway, once she was reassured about my feelings, she was as enthusiastic as I had become.

Picking an area of Spain was a little more difficult as we did not want to be far from the sea but wanted to live close to Spanish people and did not want to be surrounded by tourists. We settled on Almeria province but not the city itself, the home we found is within easy reach of a little village but only a 15 minute drive from the Mediterranean.

After looking at details of many Spanish properties online, we knew we had to take a trip out there, which we did at the end of April. It was so worth it. We knew as soon as we entered the second property that it was for us. It felt like our home and while I was sitting talking to the owner, Lisa was already working out in her mind what could go where.

Our living room in Spain looking from the back door through the wide arch into the kitchen diner. Beyond the display cabinets on the left is another wide entrance way into the hall that gives access to the wetroom and two bedrooms

Some work needed to be done before we move in but this is already in hand. We agreed the details and accepted a quote and the seller, who lives nearby, agreed to oversee the work for us. When I received my share of the money from my previous matrimonial home, we completed the purchase of our dream home that will be wheelchair accessible right from the start. Actually, we received the money into our bank account on a Friday and we completed the purchase on the Monday.

The work includes stripping out the old bathroom and installation of a wet room complete with a large shower area with a fold-down seat, fitting a new wider back door and fly screen leading from the living room out onto the decking, a ramp from the back garden up to the decking and a levelled and resurfaced walkway from the drive to the back garden. There is other work being done as well but these are the main items to make life easier for me.

It really is ideal and living in the warmth with plenty of natural vitamin D will be perfect.

As an added bonus, we even have a second bedroom so friends and relatives can stay.