Access for all ambition for York City Centre

Green councillors on the City of York Council Executive are working hard to improve access to for disabled people across York, including the city centre. This includes ensuring that the voices of a wide range of people with disabilities are heard in the work to develop an inclusive city centre for the thousands of people who use the footstreet areas every day.

Every person is an individual and each person with a disability has different needs. We are therefore consulting widely, and so far over 100 people have attended a total of 7 workshops on specific issues and over 1900 have responded to the Our City survey sent to every household. More detailed work is being done with disability groups, engaging over 420 people in more in-depth conversations. This is a major consultation, the largest ever undertaken with disabled people in the City.

The citywide survey shows strong support for the extensions to the footstreets introduced at short notice to support city businesses having outdoor seating after the first lockdown. Over 60% of those with a disability support the measures.

It is in this context that Labour brought a motion that gave the impression that no further actions were under consideration. Whilst we understand, that some disabled people were involved in elements of drafting the Labour motion and of course we respect their views, we still feel that the practical proposals in the Labour motion are best taken forward through the current consultation process. This was the main purpose of our amendment.

We would like to set the record straight as to what has been decided through the amended Labour motion debated at full council on July 15th (full text below). The measures proposed in the motion are all under consideration as  part of the current consultations.

The amended motion which was passed by council includes new benches, accessible toilets and baby changing facilities, more accessible bus stops, consistent paving and dropped kerbs, as well as options for an accessible shuttle bus or road train. None of the practical proposals from Labour were prevented from being taken forward by our amendment – we just wanted to make sure they were incorporated in the work that is already in progress and that the motion accurately reflected what is already happening.

Further work is also underway in the council looking at possible improvements to the Shopmobility service (the topic of one of the workshops) and improved routes from car parks to the city centre.

We should also be very clear that the original Labour motion DID NOT call for blue badge parking to be restored within the footstreets areas, nor for the extensions to the footstreets area to be scrapped, so our amendment made no difference in that respect.

We would be very happy indeed to work collaboratively with Labour, as part of the ongoing review to implement the suggested actions that are in the motion. This issue is far too important to be turned into a political football.

Cllr Andy D’Agorne

The text of the amended motion:

Ensuring Access for All motion

proposed by Cllr Melly, as amended by Cllr D’Agorne July 15th 2021

Council notes:

  • that York is a Human Rights City;
  • that every local authority has a duty under the Equalities Act to consider the impact of proposed changes and make reasonable adjustments to address the impacts of those changes on those with protected characteristics.
  • that disabled people are not a single homogenous group and therefore a raft of measures may be required in order to make the city centre fully accessible and to appropriately mitigate any reduced vehicular access;
  • that having alternative provision of services – eg online services is being improved as part of the council’s digital inclusion work;
  • the significant numbers of complaints made by Blue Badge holders who feel excluded from the city centre following recent extensions to the pedestrianised footstreets area;
  • Recognising that York is a compact city with street patterns that go back to medieval times, full accessibility is a concern that is currently being addressed.
  • Following the “Healthier, Greener York” motion passed by Council in December 2019 calling for a city-wide approach to reducing car- dependency, the Executive Member for Transport has authorised an unprecedented level of engagement with disability advocacy groups to address their concerns and improve access for people with mobility difficulties.

Council believes:

  • that there are many benefits to extending the pedestrianised footstreets area for residents, businesses and visitors, including disabled and non-disabled people;
  • that increasing city centre access for some should not come at the cost of creating barriers for others;
  • that accessibility is about meeting the needs of all residents visiting the city centre.
  • that ensuring accessibility includes ensuring sufficient provision of appropriately located seating, toilets, changing places, baby change facilities, cycle racks and Blue Badge parking;
  • Through the ongoing consultation, officers and members are acknowledging that whilst at times the different needs of different disability groups may conflict with one another, City of York Council must not privilege one group over another and the council needs to mediate between these.
  • that City of York Council is facilitating an extensive engagement with local disability groups and residents with restricted mobility as it works to ensure the city centre is accessible to all residents.

Council resolves:

  • to request that the Executive and relevant Executive Member continue addressing the following suggestions through the ongoing accessibility arrangement review
  • undertake a review of city centre seating, working closely with older adult and disability advocacy groups, to ensure sufficient ‘rest-stops’ are available throughout the pedestrianised footstreets area;
  • ensure that all new benches installed across York are age and disability friendly, with appropriate backs and arm rests;
  • ensure sufficient provision of fully accessible toilets, baby- changing facilities and changing places that are open at appropriate times and that are well-signposted;
  • undertake a review of cycle rack provision to ensure secure parking is available for the full range of cycles, including mobility aids and trailers;
  • explore options for a frequent shuttle ‘train’/bus that is fully accessible, not limited to Blue Badge Holders, not stigmatising and that enables people to get to and from a range of places within the pedestrianised footstreets area that they need access to;
  • review the provision of charging points for mobility aids such that those who wish to access the city centre via this method can be confident that they will not get stuck and be forced into embarrassing or stressful situations;
  • direct council officers to work with partners, through the Quality Bus Partnership, to work collaboratively with local disability representative groups to review how drivers prioritise wheelchair users’ access and makes Class 3 access training available in York;
  • in conjunction with Age Friendly York, local disability representative groups and Quality Bus Partnership, develop agreed criteria for accessible bus stops;
  • review the policy as part of the council’s review of parking and routes to and through the city centre around choice of road and pavement surfaces city-wide, to ensure ergonomics and accessibility are taken into account, and that a consistent approach is taken to tactile paving city-wide;
  • ensure that an easily accessible, up-to-date map of Blue Badge parking is available to residents online and in hard copy upon request;
  • review national best practice examples for pedestrian core accessibility such as Chester and Leicester, and whilst recognising that every city has different issues and challenges, consider measures that improve pre-existing access such that City of York Council meets its obligation to ensure equality of city centre access for all York residents.”
  • Build on the promotion of flags like the Armed Forces flag, the LGBT flag and Trans flag by committing to fly the Disability Pride flag at least once a year (for example a day in July, Disability Pride month) from the Mansion House and other appropriate flag poles.
  • To further the aim of raising awareness of Disabled Pride and the issues faced by disabled people, that the logo of the Disability Pride flag be used by CYC where possible – for example on notices, posters and email signatures if people wish.”

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