Bedford and District Access Group
More than 8,000 people in the Bedford area have some kind of
physical disability. This web page informs you about the work
of the only voluntary organisation providing a focal point for
improving accessibility to buildings, services and the natural
Access Groups have been around for several
years now. As long ago as 1979, the Silver Jubilee Committee
on Improving Access for Disabled People recognised in its report
"Can Disabled People Go Where You Go?" that local Access Groups
have an important role in monitoring the local access
situation. The report made a recommendation that "every local
authority should, at an early stage, seek advice on individual
planning applications from a group including representatives of the
main categories of disability".
The report also recommended that "where no
local voluntary access group exists ..... the appropriate local
authority should establish and support one".
In June 1991, following the appointment of
their first Access Officer, Bedford Borough Council actively
supported the formation of Bedford and District Access Group.
It aims to provide a focus for matters relating to safe and easy
access to buildings and facilities and to disseminate information
and advice with the concerns of disabled people in mind. It
is an independent group of volunteers consisting of disabled people
(including those with sensory impairments), carers, architects,
developers and those who simply want to help.
The importance of the Access Group has been
recognised by Bedford Borough Council in its policy statement
"Planning for People With Disabilities" and the Council is
committed to maintaining effective links with the Group.
The Bedford and District Access Group has
developed a wide range of activities aimed at improving access for
the whole community. The Group's underlying philosophy is
that good access design for people with mobility problems results
in a much safer and more convenient environment for everyone. After
all, the automatic doors at the supermarket are a boon to the
shopper laden with heavy bags and the parent with a pushchair is
grateful for the ramped entrance to the doctor's surgery or
The Access Group is involved in the following
The Group carries out surveys in Bedford. Their findings on
such matters as dropped kerbs, poor conditions of footpaths,
indistinct signs and hazards for people with sensory impairment
have all been subject to detailed reports to the appropriate local
authority. Despite financial constraints, there have been
some notable improvements and a substantial increase in the number
of dropped kerbs with tactile warning surfaces. Indeed, the
Group has now become recognised as an expert consultative body and
has been requested to undertake access surveys in several important
This excellent free wheelchair and
scooter loan service for shoppers with disabilities, situated in
the Howard Centre, Bedford, was recommended to the Borough Council
by the Access Group.
The Access Group's campaign for the Council to adopt an accessible
taxi policy has resulted in an increased number of
wheelchair-accessible taxis in the Borough.
There has been a marked increase in the number of "A" Boards,
advertising signs and shop stalls which are being placed on public
footways or pavements. These can be hazardous to people with
impaired vision and can reduce pavements widths. The Access
Group supports the Borough Council's policy towards dealing
with footway obstructions and urges it to take enforcement
action by virtue of its powers under the Highways Act.
Disabled Badge Holders' Permit
The unauthorised use of street parking spaces designated for
Disabled Badge Holders is a constant source of irritation to
disabled people and their helpers. The Access Group is
pressing for an improved level of policing and review of the
Disabled Badge issuing procedure.
Access is an issue which affects a wide range
of people with disabilities - from those with congenital
impairments to mobility problems caused by age, accident or
illness. The Access Group welcomes the support of all
groups or individuals who are concerned with the needs of disabled
Since the formation of the Access group, its
work and efforts in lobbying the various local authorities has
produced significant results. However, there is a great deal
more to be done.
If you would like more information or would
like to become involved in any aspect of the Group's work please
The Disability Equality and Access Officer
Tel: 01234 718565
Textphone: 01234 718828