Accessible Places for All

By Keith Robertson,

Disability Access Officer, Scottish Disability Equality Forum

If we are to ensure that everyone in society has the opportunity to contribute to their communities, and feel part of that community, we should be insisting not on barrier free design, but indeed accessible design.

However, what is equally important,  if not more important, is placemaking.  If we are serious about building vibrant and inclusive communities it is imperative that we build both domestic and non-domestic structures where everyone can access them.  It is imperative that all housing is accessible to everyone, and people are not excluded because they have a disability and therefore can’t visit friends, neighbours or relatives, as things are at present.

For employment, it is so important that disabled people can access the workplace; we have the right to work the same as anyone else, but if the workplace is not accessible we are excluded before we can even apply for a job.

Whether it is in rural or urban environments, it is of paramount importance that all new builds must be in areas that are accessible or can be made accessible.  Should we fail in this we will exclude and isolate disabled people from their communities.   This will not only put extra unnecessary risk on the health of disabled people with isolation likely to lead to anxiety, depression and a real risk to people’s mental and physical health, but we will ultimately end up ghettoising disabled and older people by not integrating them into our communities.

For those who do need that extra level of care that can’t be delivered in the community, we must desist from building care-homes with more than forty residents, because we will end up with ghettos of disabled or older people who are being excluded from their communities and being isolated from regular human contact and interaction.

We must take extra care, take a step back and consider what, and most importantly where, we are building, if we are to seriously continue to develop vibrant and inclusive communities.