The charity points out that lockdown is having a greater detrimental impact on disabled people, who are more likely to have been self-isolating, had fewer opportunities to exercise, and experienced greater social isolation. Therefore safe and accessible walking/wheeling/cycling opportunities for disabled people are more vital as we move into a ‘new normal’ after COVID-19.
With Government funding, local authorities across the UK are introducing pro-‘active travel’ measures with the aim of limiting overcrowding on public transport and reducing reliance on private cars. Very quickly and mostly using temporary barriers/cones, pavements are being widened, car access is being limited in certain neighbourhoods and car lanes are being turned into cycle lanes. The charity says that unless pop-up pavements and cycle lanes are accessible to all and unless disabled car parking is retained, disabled people will “remain prisoners in their own homes” because they won’t be able to physically distance and it won’t be safe for them to move around.
Wheels for Wellbeing director Isabelle Clement said: “Disabled people want and need to walk, wheel and cycle to rebuild our fitness and so we can get back to our lives after weeks in lockdown. However, if pop-up cycle lanes and widened pavements are rushed and aren’t fully accessible, streets will become no-go areas for us, forcing many to lock ourselves away until a vaccine or treatment are found. So we call on Government and local authorities to engage with Disability groups nationally and locally. We can help to get it right.”
Wheels for Wellbeing is also asking the Government and local authorities to consider, in particular, the barriers to disabled people’s wheel mobility: cycle lanes must be suited to a diverse range of cycles and mobility scooters, subsidies are needed for non-standard cycles for disabled people, Government needs to recognise cycles as mobility aids, a public education campaign should be run to raise awareness of everyone’s role in ensuring disabled people are safe when out and about.
“We strongly believe that when streets are safe for disabled people to physically distance, they will be all the safer for everyone else too,” Clement added. “Inclusive design isn’t a nice to have anymore, it’s a public health priority!”
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