If you can’t stand, you can’t sit

Friday saw the 2nd reading of Lord Faulkner of Worcester’s Accessible Sports Grounds Bill.

Across the chamber there was support for what the Bill was seeking to achieve- reasonable access for disabled spectators to sports grounds, not least those of football’s Premier League.  I was delighted to take part in the debate on the Bill.

It is an excellent Bill, a straightforward Bill, a Bill which demonstrates many things, not least Lord Faulkner of Worcester’s long standing support for those who simply want to access sport.

The mechanism for achieving this aim simple, that clubs failing to meet the minimum guidelines would not be licenced with a safety certificate and so be unable to stage matches.

Just three of the 20 Premier League stadiums currently reach recommended spaces for wheelchair users. The Football Task Force, of which the Premier League was a part, said in 1998 that these numbers should apply to all grounds and these guidelines were then also outlined in the 2003 Accessible Stadia guide for new stadiums.

During the debate, I set out new cases of potential discrimination at some of our top flight clubs:

  •  Liverpool: During the last match of the season at Anfield, there was a planned pre-match celebration in recognition of Steven Gerrard’s last game for the club. A small group of fans displayed a large banner in front of disabled fans which completely blocked their view of the pitch. When the disabled fans asked a steward to intervene, a fan became extremely abusive and violent. He said: ‘F9ck Off. I will punch your lights out. We will get all you wheelchairs out of this ground for good. I’m going to put you in the ground.’
  • Manchester United: In May, an elderly male, in his 80s with a walking stick and a male in his 20s who had a cast on his foot and was on crutches were refused to Old Trafford due to the walking stick/crutches they had. Manchester United stewards, who claimed they could be used as weapons, were dealing with the incident. The walking sticks/crutches were taken off them and given back at the end of the game, posing a significant health risk should there have been the need for an evacuation. A statement from a police liaison officer from the time questioned a complete lack of ‘common sense’ given it was obvious the individuals required these aids. It said: ‘to say they (the stewards) were unhelpful would be an understatement. The steward’s attitude and their lack of helpfulness were astounding.’

I have no desire to necessarily single out the stewards, although I would be very interested in the diversity and inclusion training they received.

  • Chelsea: Despite its wealth, the club has recently told its disabled supporters that there is no intention to make further improvements until the stadium redevelopment is completed in 2022 as it can’t move existing fans from their preferred seat. In response, a Chelsea disabled fan who was too scared to be named, said: “This is completely unacceptable and the club never seems to have a problem in moving fans to make way for new hospitality and media spaces.”

Poor access and discrimination against disabled fans has tarnished the reputation of football for too long.  Unless action is taken soon to address the glacial speed of progress, major sponsors should think long and hard about whether it remains ethical to continue with  their relationship with football.  Following the debate I have written to all Premier League sponsors and broadcast partners to seek their views on this matter.

The time for the same old feeble excuses has passed, particularly hiding behind the age of stadiums to explain inaction.

It seems clear that, when there is a need to bring in new technology, more camera positions, space for different rights holders, changes are made in a trice. Many stadiums have been virtually rebuilt from the inside out, with significant additions to VIP, hospitality and media areas.

If you can make the Cambridge college that I went to accessible, with buildings that date back to the 15th century, it is entirely possible to solve this problem. It’s time for Premier League clubs to show leadership and stop treating disabled fans like 2nd class citizens.

Football is our national sport.  Sadly, all too often, for many disabled supporters, the beautiful game is an ugly, ugly experience.

Time to stop sharing?

Lord Holmes on BBC Breakfast - interview on Exhibition Road - onscreen "Lord Holmes of Richmond, Report author"

Today I have published detailed research into so called “shared space”.  This is the architectural conceit, the planning folly which proposes that the removal of kerbs, road markings, controlled crossings such as zebras and pelicans and so on leads to a better experience for all users of our streets.  To be clear this means no road or pavement, just space, buses and blind people, toddlers and trucks sharing this same space.  Unsurprisingly, the research findings do not support a sunny view of shared space.

 

Sixty-three per cent of respondents reported a negative experience of shared space. Even more worrying than that, thirty-five per cent said they actively avoided shared space, that’s over a third of people planned out of their local community, their local shops, their local support services.  This type of totalitarian planning would make even an old style Soviet feel some shame.  The research also indicated a significant under reporting of accidents in these shared spaces.

 

The findings are stark, the solution clear, an immediate moratorium on all shared space schemes until thorough impact assessments can be conducted.  This must be combined with a central record of accident data including “courtesy crossings”, which must be defined and monitored.  There is also a need for updated Department for Transport guidance to enable local authorities to fully understand their obligations, not least in relation to the Equality Act.

 

Patrick McGloughlin, Secretary of State for Transport, when questioned by the Transport Select Committee on exactly this just before the end of the last parliament acknowledged that Government guidance on shared space must be improved stating,  “We need to review and update the guidance that we are giving” (Q.30)  I look forward to hearing more from Patrick McGloughlin on how that commitment is progressing

 

Has so called “shared space” achieved an inclusive experience for all, no, it most certainly has not.  Has it opened up our high streets, increased safety and usability, again, no it has not. Shared space is not a safe place nor a pleasant place, it has turned high streets into traffic free for alls, it has caused confusion, chaos and catastrophe.

 

In the words of survey respondents, shared space is:

“Lethally dangerous” (Pedestrian)

“Absolute nightmare that I avoid if I can.” (Driver)

“Shared space is a false promise with poor delivery” (Cyclist)

Full Report

Two eyes in inclusion?

Please tweet using #stopsharedspace

 

 

 

Accidents by Design: The Holmes Report into Shared Space

Lord Holmes and Lottie at side of Exhibition Road as taxi passes
Lord Chris Holmes and Lottie in Exhibition Road surrounded by cars

Stuck in shared space on Exhibition Road

 

On Friday 1st July I published detailed research into so called “shared space”.  This is the architectural conceit, the planning folly, which proposes that the removal of kerbs, road markings, controlled crossings such as zebras and pelicans and so on leads to a better experience for all users of our streets.  To be clear this means no road or pavement, no safe space, buses and blind people, toddlers and trucks sharing the same space.  Unsurprisingly, the research findings do not support a sunny view of shared space.

Sixty-three per cent of respondents reported a negative experience of shared space. Even more worryingly, thirty-five per cent said they actively avoided shared space, that’s over a third of people planned out of their local community, their local shops, their local support services.  This type of totalitarian planning would make even an old style Soviet feel some shame.  The research also indicated a significant under reporting of accidents in these shared spaces.

The findings are stark, the solution clear, an immediate moratorium on all shared space schemes until thorough impact assessments can be conducted.  This must be combined with a central record of accident data including “courtesy crossings”, which must be defined and monitored.  There is also a need for updated Department for Transport guidance to enable local authorities to fully understand their obligations, not least in relation to the Equality Act.  

Has so called “shared space” achieved an inclusive experience for all? No, it most certainly has not.  Has it opened up our high streets, increased safety and usability? Again, no it has not. Shared space is not a safe place nor a pleasant place, it has turned high streets into traffic free for alls, it has caused confusion, chaos and catastrophe.

In the words of survey respondents, shared space is:

 “Lethally dangerous” (Pedestrian)

“Absolute nightmare that I avoid if I can.” (Driver)

“Shared space is a false promise with poor delivery” (Cyclist) 

Holmes Report on Shared Space

Shared-use streets a safety disaster says, ex-Paralympian, BBC News

Halt city ‘shared spaces’, says report by Lord Holmes, BBC News

Cars and pedestrians don’t mix well concludes study into shared space schemes, Independent

Chaos, Confusion and Catastrophe, Politics Home

Lord Holmes calls for immediate moratorium on ‘lethally dangerous’ shared space, Transport Monthly

Shared space schemes labelled dangerous in Lords report, Architects Journal

New Report calls for a moratorium on shared space crossings, Transport for All

Top Town shared spaces branded ‘dangerous’ and ‘Third World traffic free-for-alls’, Grimsby Telegraph

“Dangerous and Costly” shared spaces should be scrapped, Lord Holmes claims, Gloucester Citizen

Ex-Paralympian in call to end shared space crossings, Swindon Advertiser

Time to stop sharing?, Lord of the Blogs

Blurred Lines #Shared Spaces, Unity Law Report

IHE Response to Holmes Report

Daily Politics asks if ‘shared space’ is safe….

End of the road for white lines on highway, The Times

Please tweet using #stopsharedspace,

Lord Holmes and Lottie at side of Exhibition Road as taxi passes

Still stuck on Exhibition Road

 

 

TED Talk ‘Seeing isn’t believing’

Chris standing on red circle giving TED talk at TEDx Event

Chris was delighted to give a TED talk at a TEDx Event organised along the theme of Momentum; Moving Forward, Gaining Speed and Building Traction. Chris’s talk was titled ‘Seeing isn’t Believing’ as he explained how a working class kid from the Midlands got from an underperforming comprehensive school to Cambridge University, from a rundown 25 yard swimming pool to the gold medal podium at 4 Paralympic Games, from a terraced house to the House of Lords. For Chris this path was not guided by the light afforded by sight, that sight having departed, without notice, overnight. Vision instead of sight and a clear path firmly built on the bedrock of self belief.

Watch Chris’s TED talk

TEDx Whitehall Women

 

 

 

Deputy Chancellor of BPP University

Chris was honoured to be installed as Deputy Chancellor of BPP University. He is a former law student of the university and was at London’s prestigious Guildhall venue on 13th May 2016 to receive the honour during the university’s graduation ceremony. Speaking on the power of higher education, Chris said he was “honoured” to be the university’s new figurehead and “delighted to play my small part in the on-going success at BPP as  the University goes from strength to strength, producing excellent graduates across the professions who will go on to make such a positive contribution to our country.” Chris gained a post graduate diploma in law (PGDL) whilst at BPP University’s Law School and in 2002 he completed the Legal Practice Course.

 

Keynote Speaker for the Vision UK 2015 Conference

Chris has been announced as the keynote speaker for the Vision UK 2015 conference on Thursday 18 June 2015 at Central Hall Westminster in London.

 

Titled ‘Working together to deliver the UK Vision Strategy’, the seventh annual Vision UK event will feature a brand new format, with delegates able to choose from one of five conference streams, focused on delivering aspects of the UK Vision Strategy and tailored for different professional interests.

 

Shared Space Survey

Chris strongly believes that shared space schemes which minimize demarcations between vehicles and pedestrians are dangerous. Shared space schemes remove features such as curbs, road surface markings, traffic signs, controlled crossings and regulations. In the UK, shared space schemes are increasing with many local authorities planning new schemes despite the inherent difficulties. Blind and partially sighted people have particular difficulties with the schemes but this survey also aims to generate evidence from other groups, such as other pedestrians and drivers who, anecdotally, talk of serious concerns when driving in these spaces. Thank you very much if you can spare five minutes to answer the survey.

 

Transport Network, ‘Paralympic champion Lord Holmes launches survey into shared space schemes

Transport Network, ‘Comment: Two Eyes in Inclusion’

Gloucestershire Echo, ‘Are Shared Spaces Dangerous?’

Transport Monthly, ‘Paralympic Champion and Parliamentarian Lord (Chris) Holmes launches survey to investigate public attitudes to shared space’

Facts Magazine, ‘Survey to investigate public attitudes to shared space’

Coach and Bus Week, ‘Shared space survey asks for bus drivers opinions’

Transport for all, ‘Two Eyes in Inclusion’

My Sight Nottinghamshire, ‘Have your say on shared space schemes’

 

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