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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 environment.

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 clinic!

 

The Access Group is involved in the following activities:

 

Access Surveys
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 public buildings.

 

Bedford Shopmobility
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.

 

Accessible Transport
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.

 

Footway Obstructions
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 people.

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 contact:

The Disability Equality and Access Officer

Email: stuart.odell@bedford.gov.uk

Tel: 01234 718565

Textphone: 01234 718828

Don't Miss

Health and Social Care

Bedford Borough Council is responsible for social care services within the borough. This section explains how we support people of all ages who may need care either at home or in another setting.

 


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