Anger over lack of disabled access

  • May 24, 2008
  • Bruce Bromley

Weston & Sommerset Mercury
A MAN from Kewstoke who spent 19 months in hospital and a year at home after a serious motorbike accident has expressed his anger at the lack of access for disabled people in Weston.

David Ham was left paralysed from the neck down after he crashed into a lorry in Congresbury in August 2005 and now uses a power wheelchair.

For the first time since the accident, the 26-year-old went to Weston’s High Street with one of his carers last week, only to find he could not get into the shops he wanted.

He even had to hand his bank details over to an assistant in Natwest as he could not get into the lift up to the cashiers desks on the first floor.
David, of Southside Crescent, said: “After being stuck at home for such a long time I was really looking forward to getting out and being more independent.
“It was so disheartening to realise that, after overcoming one obstacle, I have now encountered another major one.
“I was made very angry by the fact that when my chair got stuck on one shop step none of the staff offered to help.
“I am still young and want to do as much for myself as I can.
“Even going to the cinema is a struggle as the Odeon in Weston does not have disabled access to screen one, which shows most of the new films.

“I have to then wait for films to come out on DVD, which means I am spending more time at home again.”
David, who lives with his parents Jeanette and Andrew, both aged 56, also had a problem when he visited Weston’s Sovereign Shopping Centre.
He said: “The access to the shops is good but I got stuck in one of the lifts because the doors did not open long enough to allow me to manoeuvre my chair out.
“I understand that my chair maybe bigger than others but that should not hinder me in what I want to do
“I am sure that other people, in smaller chairs do encounter similar problems.”

Sovereign Shopping Centre manager Nick Cooke said: “The whole centre was built with disabled access in mind.

“All shops are on one floor, there are disabled toilets and the car park has wider bays.”
A Natwest spokesman said: “There are some branches where issues such as planning or the structural constraints of the building mean that level access cannot be provided.

“However, the lift in our Weston branch does meet the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act.”
An Odeon spokesman said: “Unfortunately after a full inspection, Odeon regrets that it is not feasible at present to include facilities providing access to screen one for people in wheelchairs.”
Lack of access to shops is one of many issues David has encountered since leaving hospital.

He has recently paid £9,000 of his own money for a new chair due to the fact the waiting list to get one with the NHS is so long.