King’s Lynn campaigner welcomes damning disability access report

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A Lynn disability access campaigner says he is not surprised by a new report which condemned access for disabled people to shops and restaurants as “shocking.”

The survey of more than 30,000 premises across the country, carried out by DisabledGo, a firm which provides access information for disabled people, revealed that a third of department stores and 40 per cent of restaurants surveyed do not have an accessible toilet for disabled customers.

And Trevor Smith, who has lobbied MP Henry Bellingham on the issue after experiencing similar problems while caring for his wife Sue, who has severe cerebral palsy, has welcomed the findings.

He said yesterday: “If they’ve got that many people saying something needs to be done, that shows there needs to be a change in the law.”

The survey, which was published at the weekend, assessed 27,000 high street shops and more than 3,700 restaurants.

It said a fifth of department stores visited could not provide access for wheelchair users because there were no ramps, while less than a third had accessible changing rooms.

Almost two-thirds of retail staff and nearly half of restaurant workers were found to have had no disability awareness training, while only 15 per cent of retailers and just nine per cent of restaurants have hearing loops for customers with hearing impairments.

DisabledGo chairman Barry Stevenson said: “We are pleased that many retailers have invested significantly in improved accessibility in the last 10 years, but the majority are still not doing enough.

“It’s entirely unacceptable for disabled people, their family, friends and carers not to be able to access all high street shops and facilities.”

He added: “It doesn’t need to cost a fortune to do the right thing.”

Mark Harper, minister for disabled people, said he wanted retailers and restaurants to look at how they could improve their services.

But current laws only require businesses to make “reasonable” changes to their premises to help accommodate disabled customers.

And Mr Smith said: “It needs clear definitions. It should definitely be done now.”

Mr and Mrs Smith are currently supporting the landlords of two Lynn pubs, the Wildfowler on Gayton Road and the Woolpack on Gaywood Road in their efforts to make the premises more accessible to disabled customers.

And he suggested that schoolchildren should be encouraged to design posters to emphasise the issue.