How to have your say on access

DISABLED people are being asked to tell Huntingdonshire District Council how it can make its services more accessible for them. Two seminars have been set up, independently of the council, so people with disabilities – 13 per cent of the district s popula

DISABLED people are being asked to tell Huntingdonshire District Council how it can make its services more accessible for them.

Two seminars have been set up, independently of the council, so people with disabilities - 13 per cent of the district's population - can speak freely about what they find difficult in dealing with officialdom.

The events have been organised by wheelchair-user Geoff Morris, of Sawtry-based GAM Disability Consultancy, to help the council prepare for the introduction in December of new legislation that requires public bodies actively to look for ways to improve accessibility.

"The local authority is doing something extremely positive here," said Mr Morris, who suffers from multiple sclerosis. "Until you become a wheelchair-user you don't realise what a strange world it is."

Many retailers went out of their way to find reasons not to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act, said the former retail manager. Others, such as Marks & Spencer, "bend over backwards to comply with the Act.

"What I want is for people to be wanting to comply with the Act rather than just trying to avoid prosecution under it."

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He is urging disabled people and their carers to attend the events at the Wood Green Animal Shelters in Godmanchester on Tuesday and the Priory Centre, in St Neots, on August 25. Both will run from 9.30am-12.30pm.

Ian Leatherbarrow, the district council's head of policy, said: "Cabinet has already approved a draft scheme but we thought we should ask people with disabilities what they want from us.

"We have worked with Papworth and Saxongate on this, but we need to make sure that what we think we need to do is on the right track.

"But we want to stand back so that people can say what they really think. That's why we have involved Geoff Morris.

"We have already done work with people with learning difficulties. As a result, we have produced a guide for staff urging them to use less complicated words and to use pictures where they can instead."

The council's tourist information kiosk, shortly to be unveiled in Huntingdon's newly-refurbished St Benedict's Court, will have two interactive screens, one at adult eye level, the other at eye-level for children and wheelchair-users.

The council's quarterly newsletter for residents, District Wide, is now available in Braille and large print formats and on CD.

INFORMATION: Entry to the discussion forums is free. GAM Disability Consultancy is at 21 Beaumaris Road, Sawtry, PE28 5SF. Tel: 01487 832873 or 07941 574 326 or you can e-mail geoffmorris@toucansurf.com

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