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Waterstones: Getting in was okay but now what?

Free Ceredigion project was launched very recently, supporting the wider Caru Ceredigion initiative. Produced with the help of Ceredigion Disability Forum, the Clutter Free Ceredigion leaflet is aimed at raising awareness of the importance of keeping Ceredigion’s streets accessible to all. Ceredigion Disability Forum is made up of individuals and groups representing the interests of those with physical, mental or sensory conditions. Forum members are concerned that obstacles encountered on the county’s streets can cause difficulties, especially for those with visual and/or physical impairments, older people and parents with pushchairs and young children. The Clutter Free Ceredigion leaflet will be sent to local businesses and organisations to raise awareness of keeping streets accessible and not, for instance, overloading them with promotional signs. County Council Leader, Councillor

Julian would like to go that are always going to remain off limits through no real fault of their own. The Treehouse building, for instance, is in Julian’s judgement ‘a hopeless case’, having access only via steps or a too narrow hallway. And even if he could get inside, the shop is too small ever to be able to accommodate its wares and have space for Julian’s wheelchair. The stairway to the restaurant is old and narrow and clearly could not accommodate a chair lift. Julian told me: “Many of these buildings were built at a time when access wasn’t even considered, when disabled people were hidden away at home. Some are converted houses, never intended as shops and cafes. To ask some of these places to make changes would be ‘unreasonable adjustment’.

FLUSHED WITH SUCCESS? “The council have done a lot of really

good work,” Julian tells me. “The toilets are really well maintained and the staff, where they have them, are really helpful. The only criticism is some are rather small, for example the public shelter on the prom and the ones by Matalan and the Leisure Centre. In these toilets, the chair cannot be turned round, or only with considerable difficulty. Other toilets are fantastic. The one down by the harbour in Aberystwyth is very clean and has plenty of room if assistance is needed or you have to turn the chair around. But we need more like that in the centre of town.” Among business premises, Julian

noted that The White Horse and Yr Hen Orsaf have disabled toilets that are at least adequate. The disabled toilets at the Arts Centre are poor provision in Julian’s opinion, however - too small, hot and impractical. Again, Julian prefaces his assessment

of provision with the question: ‘Why should I have to ask for help?’ Julian used to work at the university and realises that it’s a difficult campus to make accessible for disabled staff and students: “Ten years ago, provision was quite token. They’d done things, sure, but not done them well.”


These days, Aberystwyth University has its Accessible Aber Group with some

budget to support works which have a positive impact on the experience of individuals with mobility and/or other accessibility issues. The group comprises representatives from across the university and includes student representation. Recent projects have included

installing a new lift in the Students’ Union, upgrading of the existing lifts in the Physical Sciences and Llandinam buildings, upgrading the fire alarm system for people with hearing problems, creating accessible parking spaces between the Cledwyn building and Student Welcome Centre, and refurbishing toilets in the Cledwyn Building for ‘full accessibility’. Projects under consideration include improving access to the Arts Centre piazza. For students, Accessibility Services at the University can be accessed via the Student Welcome Centre on the Penglais Campus (Tel: 01970 621761. Email: Corrie Mortis-Wait said: “The

campus isn’t too bad for access, most buildings have disabled parking next to them, and have lifts. The worst bit for me is getting to the Hugh Owen Library as you’ve got to park by the Arts Centre and walk from there.” Speaking for the Arts Centre,

Director Gareth Roberts told The Herald: “We’re proud of the fact that we actively go out of our way to make everyone’s visit as easy and as enjoyable as possible and will do our best to support members of the public with personal needs, which can sometimes mean allocating private rooms for any additional access requirements. We have fully functional accessible toilets and the lift to the Ceramics gallery is in full working order, and is available to use on request – where someone will come and assist. We consistently offer staff training to help support patrons with their access requirements, and any future redevelopment of the Arts Centre will consider accessibility as a priority.” The Arts Centre are part of the Hynt Membership Card scheme. Cardholders are entitled to a ticket free-of-charge for a personal assistant or carer.

CLUTTER FREE CEREDIGION Very occasionally, usually by accident

rather than design, my timing is perfect. In the case of this article, the Clutter

Ellen ap Gwynn, said: ‘We hope Clutter Free Ceredigion will help raise awareness of the challenges and difficulties obstructions can cause and help make Ceredigion an even more pleasant place to live and visit. “Clutter Free Ceredigion is an

excellent example of Caru Ceredigion and how local stakeholders can work together to achieve results that are be beneficial to all.” Caru Ceredigion is a campaign led by the council to inspire the county’s residents, local businesses and organisations to take action for the benefit of their local area. Paul Clasby, Chair of Disabled People

Together in Ceredigion, told me: “Access to business premises is the responsibility of the individual business owners. It would be amazing if all of the businesses in Ceredigion were fully accessible as this would attract more disabled tourists and thus increase the potential revenue for the business owners. Sadly, all we can do is raise awareness and hope business owners recognise the value of accessibility not just for themselves but for the county as a whole. We also need to recognise that the local authority, in spite of their and our wishes, cannot address every issue by simply throwing money and resources at it, as their funding and staff is ever diminishing. This is one of the reasons that the disabled community needs to work

Inkwells: Most improved access for the disabled

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with them to find alternative solutions to problems. I am pleased to report that, over the past three years, a great deal has been achieved through partnership working and I am proud to report that Ceredigion is leading the way in comparison to other local authorities.” Businesses seeking advice on

accessibility are welcome to contact Paul Clasby of Disabled People Together by email

THE LAST LEG The bit of the Paralympics that

had most effect on me personally was Channel 4’s ‘The Last Leg’, a comedy show companion to the Games which is a real eye-opener and taboo buster about disability. And it’s funny too. So, with the spirit of The Last Leg in mind, following my excursion with Julian, it’s clear to me that some people and institutions are doing a lot to make Aberystwyth and Ceredigion more accessible. It’s also clear that much more can be done, however. While access to assistance is important, I believe we should all strive towards Julian’s ideal: why should he have to ask for assistance? Why, for example, should my mum have to request to use the chair lift in the Arts Centre to get upstairs from the Ceramic Gallery? And, if she did need assistance, why is there no call bell on that level? This is not to pick on the Arts Centre, merely to note that paying lip-service

and sustaining passive discrimination, however inadvertent, is far too easy a trap for all of us to fall into. As I’m sure Ceredigion County

Council and Ceredigion Disability Forum would agree, Clutter Free Ceredigion is a great initiative but it’s not enough. Aberystwyth needs more and bigger disabled toilets. The town needs more and better disabled parking nearer the centre, places where vehicles with ramps can unload safely and places where disabled visitors can stay long enough to really enjoy what Aberystwyth has to offer. Corrie’s idea of a map of disabled parking spaces seems like a good and easily affordable one. We also need ever better pavement design and maintenance. I’ll leave the almost last word to

Julian: “There are many good points about Aberystwyth and a lot of effort has been made by the council and others. The public space is good as, by and large, are the chain store shops and eateries. Local business space is less good, so the negatives mean in general I avoid going in. “There is a good selection of goods

online and so visiting local shops and eateries becomes more about my disabilities than doing some shopping or having a good meal.” If we fail to make our communities

as accessible as possible, we’re not only going to miss out on business opportunities, we’ll miss out on social ones too.

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