Wednesday 18th October 2017,
North Yorks Enquirer

“I Object”

A Letter to the Editor from Ruth STRANGEWAY, of Pocklington, appealing for publication of her letter of objection to the insensitive proposals of East Riding of Yorkshire Council to severely limit disabled access to the centre of Pocklington.

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Dear Editor,
I write to request publication of the attached letter which I’ve sent to the East Riding County Council, objecting to their proposal to remove the only Hackney Carriage taxi-rank in Pocklington town centre that enables wheelchair users to access the town centre using the taxi’s disabled ramp system, in the hope that some of your readers can also share their opinions with the Council before close of play tomorrow (31st October).
Yours sincerely,
Ruth Strangeway
Ruth STRANGEWAY, Pocklington. 29th October, 2015.
EYRC_Notice

East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s (ERYC) Proposal To:

Remove the Hackney Carriage Stand – located at Railway Street, Pocklington

Further to your above notice I write to submit my objection to the above proposal for the following reasons:-

  1. If this proposal is approved it removes the only place in Pocklington town centre where registered Hackney Carriages can legally* drop disabled passengers in wheelchairs, supported by their carers. Under the Equality Act 2010 it is the duty of the Council to ensure that individuals or groups of individuals are treated fairly and equally and no less favourably, specific to their needs, including areas of race, gender, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation and age. If such approval is given it will clearly discriminate against those disabled persons in wheelchairs who need to enter and exit Pocklington using the Hackney Carriage disabled ramp system.

Several years ago, I was granted Power of Attorney for my elderly Aunt who was a resident in a Care Home in Harrogate. She loved her visits to the centre of Harrogate. They were her life line, a chance to enjoy a cappuccino and a slice of chocolate cake in her favourite café or to pray at her Church. Having been born on the west coast of Scotland she couldn’t get enough fresh air and relished the opportunity to be away from the greenhouse temperatures of her Care Home. Unfortunately, because she suffered from Parkinson’s disease, the only way we could take her out was in a wheelchair and so we were happy to spend time and money using Hackney Carriages to access Harrogate town centre and make use of their disabled ramps.

I feel well qualified to comment on this subject as, amongst other qualifications my credentials include working with the elderly as an Activity Coordinator in a Care Home for nearly three years, and providing music and entertainment for over twenty five years to numerous Care Homes in Pocklington, York, Harrogate and their surrounding areas.

Pocklington, in support of an aging population, accommodates three care facilities providing excellent services to our local community. Many of the people who use these services are dependent on wheelchairs to move inside and outside of their homes. I feel most strongly about the Council’s proposal to curtail access to Pocklington for such people. The Equality Act 2010 was introduced to assist this very group. Therefore, such a proposal is morally unacceptable. None of us knows what lies ahead and whether we will find ourselves in such an unfortunate position, but I believe it is the duty of each one of us to look after the poorest and weakest in our society. Surely those able bodied persons who can walk should be encouraged to park further away to ensure preference is given to those who cannot? That has to be the test of any decent society.

In 2013, whilst working in the Care Home, I was involved in taking an elderly group of our residents to Scarborough on a day trip. Many of them were in wheelchairs and for many it would be the last time they ever felt the sea air on their faces. My experience that day was Scarborough was unwelcoming towards the disabled. There was nowhere to park and the town was heaving. It proved really difficult to unload our elderly group. Those in positions of authority must remember when making decisions that elderly, disabled persons take a long time to move and be assisted to move. Time and space is required in order to assist them in doing so. The vehicles we were driving were only allowed to drop off and then had to be parked elsewhere, a good distance from where our elderly people were. All we required was a few hours overlooking the sea, just a short time for our residents to eat their fish, chips and ice cream before we returned to the Care Home. By the time two driver / carers had left for a significant amount of time to park and return the minibuses, and another couple had escorted those who could walk to the toilets we were left shorthanded looking after those in the wheelchairs.

When considering the Pocklington situation, I implore the ERYC to be aware that Railway Street is an ideal location for dropping disabled persons, because it has adequate pavement width for a Hackney Carriage disabled ramp to be lowered. However they must remember that the Hackney Carriage drivers, who do an excellent job in supporting the elderly and disabled to maintain some independence, also need road length and width to do so and Hackney Carriage taxi berths must reflect this (over 2.1metres wide.) Whilst we have dropped pavements and disabled access into shops, we must also provide access to Pocklington for those disabled persons in wheelchairs using the Hackney Carriages’ disabled ramp method.

* After visiting the existing dual use parking bays in question I am aware that the bays on Railway Street are currently not fit for purpose because

  1. They are not wide enough for Hackney Carriages to legally park inside the existing road markings, thus any Hackney Carriage who parks there does so illegally and risks being issued with a Parking Ticket. In addition, consider that if any Hackney Carriage has an accident whilst being illegally parked, its’ insurance will be null and void.
  2. The large red pillar box on Railway Street restricts one of the existing allotted “Taxi” parking bays, making it impossible for the disabled ramp to be safely extended from the Hackney Carriage onto the pavement
  3. Because the parking bays are designated dual purpose Hackney Carriages are seldom able to use them because they are generally filled with private vehicles.
  4. Why has this issue been put to consultation? Before doing so, the ERYC should have completed an equality impact assessment which would have identified their proposal impacted on disabled persons in wheelchairs, a group protected under the Equality Act 2010. This consultation is therefore a pointless exercise and a waste of tax payer’s time and money. By risk assessing your policies, services and processes ensures fairness, access and inclusion and that your services will be delivered efficiently first time, every time.

Yours sincerely,

Ruth Strangeway

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