Category Archives: Accessibility

From specific campaigns on accessible stadia and accessible transport to a broader commitment to the principle of accessibility, Chris feels passionately that ensuring access for all must be the “golden thread” that runs through everything.

Football fans at match including a fan who is also a wheelchair user.

Chris welcomes commons report into accessible stadia

Top of the league clubs: Derby County, Wrexham, Tranmere Rovers, Egham Town; all have been named as examples of excellence in making their clubs truly welcoming of disabled supporters. You will note that none of these clubs are in the Premier League.

In September 2015 the Premier League promised to make all clubs accessible to disabled people. The House of Commons Select Committee on Culture Media and Sport report, published today (January 16 2017) states that it is

“very clear” that sports clubs, notably many of those with very considerable income and resources, have not done anywhere near enough for sports fans with disabilities in recent years, despite the increase in income many of those clubs have enjoyed.”

The House of Commons Select Committee on Culture Media and Sport report, 2017

Given the examples above I would say it is clearly a question of will rather than resources and Greg Clarke of the Football Association agrees, telling the committee:

“that for the Premier League the problem was not money”.

Greg Clarke, Football Association

Football is our national sport, beloved by so many of us, and it needs to rediscover its moral compass. If not on its own then with some help. Both the commons committee and the Minister for Sport have said they would support legal action against clubs that miss the August deadline and Bill Bush, executive director at the Premier League spoke of fines of up to £25,000.

I would urge both the Premier League and the Equality and Human Rights Commission to use all means at their disposal to ensure that disabled supporters are no longer treated as second class citizens when they want to support their football team.

Chris Holmes

Chris’s letter to the Times: Football’s Failure

Watch Channel 4’s report: Are football stadia no go for disabled?

BBC Sport: Disabled access: Premier League clubs may face sanctions over lack of improvement

Why did the blind man cross the road?

Shared Space Blog from Chris:

I have been campaigning for some time against a street design approach known as “shared space” which has, de facto, led to the creation of unsafe environments which discriminate against blind people and negatively impact the vast majority of users.

The Department for Transport defines shared space as:

A street or place designed to improve pedestrian movement and comfort by reducing the dominance of motor vehicles and enabling all users to share the space rather than follow the clearly defined rules implied by more conventional designs.”

Department for Transport, LTN 1/11

The key part here is a desire for “all users to share the space” so “traffic signals are often removed, with indications of priority at minor junctions omitted… conventional kerbs are omitted and pedestrians share an undifferentiated surface with vehicles.”

On Wednesday I gave evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee whose inquiry into disability and the built environment has asked “to what extent do shared space schemes in roads and highways cause barriers for disabled people and how can these be resolved?”

Throughout the course of my campaign, increasing numbers of professionals have responded by asserting that shared space is no longer a useful term. Indeed, the man who claims responsibility for introducing the term in 2003, Ben Hamilton-Baillie, who also gave evidence, claimed that “the term has stuck in ways it was never meant to.” Discomfort over the term has even extended to one local authority currently introducing a scheme in Bodmin, where the council website now statestechnically we are not delivering a true shared space scheme.”

Whilst, like any campaigner, I am pleased to have arrived at an area of consensus, and I can certainly agree that “shared space” is a complicated, confusing and contested term I would also have to insist that as long as the government continues to use the term in official guidance the confusion will continue.

A further area of agreement that all sides have arrived at is the need for much better data. It seems very hard to find evidence that satisfactorily answers questions about the accessibility of these schemes as it is so rarely included as an objective, or indeed consideration, of a design plan.

Clearly, arguing about a definition of shared space is far less useful than taking a closer look at design components and what impact those features have. I am in no way opposed to: innovation and change, a more attractive public realm, or town centre regeneration but it is absolutely essential to look at how this is achieved.

If inclusive design is not the bedrock from the outset, schemes will inevitably fail, exclude, cause confusion, chaos and significant potential cost to councils facing legal challenges and further works. Pedestrian crossings are a key area. Of the 14 local authorities enacting U-Turns on their so called shared space schemes, 11 have reintroduced crossings.

The DfT have suggested that a review of shared space currently underway by the Chartered Institute of Highway Transportation will reconcile many of these concerns although CIHT stated yesterday at the evidence session that although their review will make recommendations it will NOT be sufficient to update guidance and that that would require further input from the government.

Real change will only be achieved when local authorities put inclusive design at the heart of any work in the public realm and this means asking at the outset “how does a blind person cross the road”?

Filming with BBC Breakfast at Sloane Square shared space. Chris and Lottie speaking to journalist.

Parliamentary Inquiry to Look at Shared Space

Chris welcomes the Women and Equalities Committee’s decision to conduct an inquiry into disability and the built environment.

The inquiry will ask whether more could be done to increase the accessibility and inclusivity of both new and existing properties and spaces. In particular the inquiry will ask whether shared space schemes in roads and highways cause barriers for disabled people and how can these be resolved. 

Chris did some filming with BBC Breakfast in Sloane Square and they also sent cameras to Poynton to draw attention to the inquiry. You can see Chris’s evidence here and follow the inquiry through the committee’s website.

The terms of reference for the inquiry include:

Design and management of the public realm

  • Are the needs of all groups given adequate consideration in the design of streets, highways, parks and publicly accessible open spaces and in the provision of services such as public toilets?
  • To what extent do shared space schemes in roads and highways cause barriers for disabled people and how can these be resolved?
  • What opportunities are there for delivering greater accessibility and inclusivity alongside more age-friendly towns and cities, including liaison with the NHS?

Media response:

The Times, “Shared spaces for drivers and pedestrians ‘are causing chaos’”, October 24th 2016.

Evening Standard, “Roads shared by pedestrians, cyclists and drivers ’cause chaos’, government report finds”, October 24th 2016.

Talking Buses come to Manchester

Chris, guide dog Lottie and representative from Manchester Metroshuffle Bus Service standing in front of a bus in Manchester
Chris and Lottie in Manchester for new talking bus service

Chris joined transport bosses in Manchester to formally launch new equipment on the city’s free Metroshuttle service. Chris was delighted to support the launch observing  that the improvements are a fantastic way of ensuring the city’s transport network is more accessible.

The Department for Transport’s Green Bus Fund and Transport for Greater Manchester funded the 20 Optare low carbon buses that operate on the Manchester Metroshuttle routes. Transport for Greater Manchester paid for them to be retrofitted with brand new passenger information screens, making travel easier for passengers with visual or hearing impairments.

The 19-inch high-resolution screens provide automatic audio and visual announcements for passengers on aspects of the journey such as the route plan and the next stop, as well as places of interest and nearby businesses. The technology was fitted by contractors McKenna Brothers working with the charity Guide Dogs UK.

Chris was given a guided trip on one of the buses to experience the new technology for himself and he was delighted to congratulate Transport for Greater Manchester for the initiative which will mean people living with visual or hearing impairments can feel more confident in travelling independently.

Chris has spoken in Parliament on the importance of talking buses during debates on the Bus Services Bill.