THE difficulties created by Clonakilty’s new streetscape for poeple with disabilities have been shown to Minister of State for Disability Issues Finian McGrath.
While visiting the town to open Co-Action’s new building recently he met with Elizabeth Walsh, chairperson of Clonakilty Access Group.
During the meeting, Minister McGrath viewed the new streetscape in the town and was told of the difficulties that have been created in some instances for people with disabilities, which the group says have yet to be amended. ‘Minister McGrath has taken a strong interest in access issues. We drove around the town centre and stopped at various places to point out the problems of access,’ said Elizabeth.
‘Even before works commenced on the streetscape submissions were made to Cork County Council on our concerns. However, requests to meet the architect were never responded to. Then when the footpaths were unveiled last year, it became obvious that there were issues with people falling over.’
Clonakilty Access Group believe these issues were created needlessly through lack of adherence to universal design principles and accessibility for people with disabilities, in the planning of the regeneration of the town centre, in 2015-2016.
‘These issues were flagged to the architect and the Council as soon as they were apparent and access audits identifying these issues were completed by a number of national accredited bodies in May of last year,’ she said.
‘Having seen the issues first hand, Minister McGrath has promised to write to us in the near future about them.’
Elizabeth feels aesthetics were given a higher priority than accessibility. ‘People in Clonakilty with disabilities have become quite disheartened with the situation. Some just can’t manage to come into the town centre, so the notion of people living independently is being eroded.’
The Clonakilty Access Group want accessibility for everyone - young or old.
‘When we talk about accessibility we are talking about elderly people and people using buggies – it’s as difficult for someone using a pram or a buggy, as it is using a wheelchair. Accessibility is accessibility for all.’ added Elizabeth.