No, I’m not talking about all of those behind bars but the every day “prisons” that restrict our liberty to move freely around buildings and public spaces or to find suitable homes. It’s been obvious for decades that the population is getting older which means more people acquiring impairments. If the built environment, like any other aspect of life, can’t keep up with the changes, more and more of us will be fettered by the barriers of bricks and mortar.
The answer, summarising the House of Commons report https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmwomeq/631/631.pdf, is that to many who create, occupy or manage the environment seem to think that accessibility is just “nice-to-do”. Imagine if architects, builders, planners, employers and others decided that other bits of law are equally optional?
And no-one is properly taking them to task: “the burden of ensuring that an accessible environment is achieved falls too heavily at present on individual disabled people, an approach that we consider to be neither morally nor practically sustainable.”
We need someone with a big stick to beat this drum for us: they have nominated the politician who ends up leading the Department for Communities and Local Government after the election.
But, it’s not just top down: many planning decisions are made locally but the suggestion is that the Planning Inspectorate should be investigated for not paying enough attention to equality law when granting planning consent.
During the election campaign, we are hearing lots of promises about building new houses and the increasing cost of care as more people are living longer. But absolutely not enough about “future-proofing” all those new homes so that they can still be lived in by people who are older and more likely to have disabilities. And there’s no point making new buildings and homes work for everyone if it feels unsafe moving about outside because open spaces are too difficult to navigate.
It’s one more factor causing disabled people to be more impoverished and isolated (http://wp.me/p5FTN6-cD).
Penny Melville-Brown OBE
Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk