PEOPLE have been ‘falling out of wheelchairs’ and tripping up on the new pavements in Clonakilty, a public meeting was told this week.
A local group – whose aim is to promote access for all in public spaces – is meeting with Council officials this week, to outline issues they have with current resurfacing works taking place in the town.
Several incidences have already been reported to the group, whereby people have tripped over on the new footpaths recently put down by the Council.
Clonakilty Access Group (CAG), which has been in operation for over 20 years, held the public meeting in the town’s Quality Hotel, where members of the public outlined their concerns about access to the town centre, parking spaces and uneven footpaths.
Photographs, taken by CAG, clearly show how the levels of some of the paving stones vary, and change at irregular intervals, creating a challenge for those of limited mobility, or using items with wheels. ‘We’re hearing reports of people falling out of wheelchairs and it’s not good enough that they aren’t safe. There is only one opportunity to get this regeneration right, but at the moment there seem to be too many difficulties,’ said Elizabeth Walsh, chairperson of CAG.
‘There are important issues and we want them to be addressed now and also in terms of budget – how much is it going to cost to rectify these mistakes? Access is not just an issue for people with disabilities, but it’s also for the elderly, carers and parents using buggies,’ she added.
Elizabeth pointed out that prior to the commencement of the roadworks in September 2014, the group made a four-page submission at the public consultation stage to Cork County Council, in which they outlined several issues which they felt would be necessary to achieve a truly accessible Clonakilty for all.
‘We didn’t get any response,’ said Elizabeth. ‘We requested to meet the county chief architect too and despite repeated efforts, they never met with us. At this stage I am beyond furious. How much of the town is suffering? And these questions need addressing. Our town is a vibrant town and there has been a clear waste of money,’ she claimed.
‘I think people in Clonakilty want to support local traders but they need to be able to access the town in order to do so. Our priority is for people with disabilities, but we also care about the whole town and the traders here.’
Current town mayor Cionnaith Ó’Súilleabháin, PRO for Clonakilty Access Group, said the people in Clonakilty have a right to be able to get around the town without hindrance. ‘We have a great community here in Clonakilty and we all know someone who may have a visual impairment or who uses walking aids. We did everything by the book, but we got nowhere,’ he said.
Sinn Féin Cllr Paul Hayes said he had also received complaints from people who had been tripping on the new footpaths.
A spokesperson for Cork County Council said a meeting would be held this week to enable Clonakilty Access Group to discuss their concerns in relation to the new footpaths.
‘Cork County Council designed and implemented a footpath regime on Pearse St and Ashe St which greatly widened and enhanced the footpaths, giving a higher priority to pedestrians and enhanced access to all users. The footpaths are now much more accommodating for pedestrians, prams, buggies, wheelchair users and those with a disability,’ said a spokesperson.