Category Archives: Diversity and Inclusion

Chris has always appreciated the value of celebrating diversity and promoting inclusive practices and in 2015 Chris was appointed as Diversity Adviser to the Civil Service. He is also board member at Channel 4 for Diversity. Chris has written about his personal experience of disability and this deep understanding of how inclusion works informs his professional work in this space.

Lord (Chris) Holmes, Lord Shinkwin holding accessible guide to pubs and starting in front of bar in a pub. Guide dog Lottie on floor.

“PUBS ARE FOR EVERYONE; WHY BEING ACCESSIBLE IS IMPORTANT.” GUIDANCE LAUNCHED.

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has published updated guidance for pubs to help licensees make their venue as welcoming as possible to those with access needs. Chris was at the launch and is delighted to endorse the guidance saying it:

“provides lots of useful information for licensees to help those with access needs enjoy the Great British pub.”

The foreword to the guidance is written by Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson DBE, who points out that:

“accessibility is not simply about physical access to the pub, but rather it is about creating the best experience for all who visit”.

The guidance gives six key features for an accessible pub:

1. Access ramp at door

2. Hearing loops on bar

3. Large print menu

4. Accessible toilet with disability sign on door

5. Staff trained to meet needs of disabled customers

6. Layout – easy to navigate and clear of obstacles.

Let’s hope the guidance is circulated widely and embraced by all pubs. Read the guidance in full.

DELIGHTED REACTION TO NEWLY ESTABLISHED “PAULLEY PRINCIPLE” ON ACCESSIBLE TRANSPORT

The Supreme Court today ruled on a long running dispute between FirstGroup Plc and Doug Paulley.

In 2012, Mr Paulley, a wheelchair user, had been unable to board a bus when another passenger with a pushchair refused to move allow him to use the space. 

Mr Paulley  had argued operator FirstGroup’s “requesting, not requiring” policy was discriminatory. 

The court ruled that this policy of requiring a driver to simply request a non-wheelchair user to vacate the space without taking any further steps was unjustified.

Chris welcomes the “important milestone” but noted that as the judgement was with limits it may be necessary to look again at issues with existing legislation.  

Further legislation may offer the clarity and emphasis that is so urgently required to make sure disabled people feel confident about exercising an equal right to access public transport.

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.