Flick Harris from Manchester – accessibility for disabled people

by Milena Rampoldi and
Denise Nanni, ProMosaik. In the following our interview with Flick Harris,
Chair, Manchester Disabled People’s Access
. As press portal for human rights, ProMosaik engages for a world
without any kind of discrimination, and in the field of people disabilities ProMosaik cooperates with the Artemisia Project in Berlin. On this basis, we have decided
to interview Flick from Manchester to get impulses about her work with disabled
people. Would like to thank Flick for her time and the images she sent us.

One of your activities is to raise awareness about the
problems that
people with disabilities have to face everyday. Where do you implement
this activity? (schools, community centers..)

raise awareness about the problems people with disabilities faces in their
all-day life as follows:

with other disabled people and with disabled people’s and
organisations e.g. stroke association and other impairment specific
groups, mainly around access issues and people’s rights under the Equality
Act and through legislation, policies and guidance in the built
environment and in parks etc
with other equality and diversity groups
with local authority staff
with architects, developers, planners, building control
officers and
other professionals in the built environment
with neighbourhood groups and regeneration projects
with developers and organisations e.g. Christies Hospital
who are doing
developments affecting disabled people
through consultations in the public sector and government

is probably the first step towards social inclusion.
What is the situation in your area right now, are public institutions and
private venues (restaurants, shops..) responsive about this issue?

The public sector is a lot less
responsive since the Disability
Discrimination Act was replaced with the Equality Act and public sector
organisations aren’t monitored and don’t have to consult or create annual
plans and targets. Private venues are often only interested in access when
there are campaigns or complaints. Some issues are improving eg.
information in the NHS and Manchester City Council which has currently
started to implement a strategy around disability but it is hard work and
a long haul and many businesses are not interested. Some new buildings and
roads in Manchester are extremely hazardous for disabled people and are
probably in breach of the Equality Act but it is too expensive to take
legal action.

do you cooperate with the public sector? Do you have any suggestion for public
institutions and policy makers in order to promote the empowerment of people
with disabilities?

Have a policy across all
departments including housing, planning,
licensing, information etc and involve disabled people’s organisations.
Have annual reviews and plans which are implemented in consultation with
disabled people’s organisations. Support, through grants, the continuation
and development of access groups and other disabled people’s
organisations. Fund advice services and law centres and reinstate legal
aid for people taking action under the Equality Act.

Incorporate access issues with
other equality and diversity issues, e.g.
designers making sure that baby changing areas are accessible for disabled
parents and others in charge of children, ensure that there are toilets,
accessible, available for transgender people, ensure that accessible
facilities are also environmentally good e.g. water saving facilities and
waste facilities related to accessible fixtures and fittings, ensure that
Wudu washing facilities are accessible to disabled people etc.

This is such a large topic that
I have only given a flavour and haven’t
included issues around independent living, employment and benefits issues
which are mainly dealt with by other disabled people’s organisations in
Manchester but can comment on them if necessary.