A GROUP campaigning for equal access in Clonakilty said that this summer has been the ‘worst yet for footpath obstacles’ after a survey found that over 60 businesses in the town had placed obstructions on footpaths.
Clonakilty Access Group has long been campaigning to rid Clonakilty of items placed on footpaths illegally by businesses, which block access for some people using wheelchairs and buggies.
‘We photographed over 60 businesses that have placed items such as tables, chairs, mannequins, statues, bicycles and even giant ice cream cones and gazebos on the footpaths,’ said a group spokesperson.
‘This is despite two public appeals this year and also writing to Clonakilty Chamber calling on their members to keep footpaths free for all – and calling on the Council to enforce its own regulations.’
The group was told that there had been no licences issued in Clonakilty, pending an adoption of a county-wide policy to regulate street furniture and signage.
‘The items on footpaths mean that in many areas of Clonakilty, some people with physical disabilities and those using wheelchairs are denied their right to access the town. In some cases, people are being forced to side-step off footpaths onto the road, and into moving traffic because of these footpath hazards.’
The group maintains that there is a ‘free for all’ and that the Council has failed to enforce its own regulations, or maintain order and safety in Clonakilty.
While the group welcomes and encourages the initiatives being promoted on behalf of people with autism, they feel there is a certain degree of inconsistency in these plans.
‘Furthermore, the town campaigning to make life better for one section of the population in order to get a national award, while at the same time openly discriminating against another section of the population, rings quite hollow.’
‘We very much welcomed the election of the new county mayor Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy and his inaugural speech in which he pledged to raise awareness and work to make Cork towns and villages more disabled-person and access-friendly for all people,’ said a spokesperson. ‘We hope that he will use his good office and power to address the Clonakilty situation immediately.’
The group said they are determined to ‘raise the temperature’ and are not prepared to wait a day longer while people with disabilities and others are openly discriminated against.
‘The time for talking is over, the time for action is now.’