Elki lives in York and relies on using her Blue Badge to be able to park near enough to the places she needs and wants to go. In this Member’s Voice post, Elki writes about what she sees as the dangers of reducing disability visibility in York.
Disability representation and visibility are crucial to shaping the attitudes of society towards disabled people. Ultimately they have a big impact on whether we’re treated as equal to others. They also have a huge effect on how we see ourselves.
One of the more subtle dangers of taking away access to the city centre for a lot of disabled people is that fewer of us will be seen in town. When we see pictures of people enjoying the reopening of cafés and restaurants we probably won’t see visibly disabled people in those pictures. When we read about how people are welcomed back, that probably won’t apply to us. When people go about their business, doing their shopping, they probably won’t come across disabled people. And so, disabled people will become even easier to forget about or ignore.
Every one of us has no doubt come across someone unwilling to invest in accessibility because they say ‘well, disabled people don’t come here, they’re not my customers’. This will be an even bigger challenge when business owners in the city centre come across fewer disabled people. Why invest in making your shop accessible to disabled people when most of those people can’t get to your shop?
Recently I’ve noticed more and more disabled people show up in TV programmes, adverts, films, podcasts etc. and every time I feel a little excited. I cannot even begin to explain how important disability representation is, and has been, for me in terms of my own self-esteem and self-respect. One day I hope it’ll be so normal to see disabled people all over the place that I won’t get all giddy about it. But now that I won’t see disabled people in York that day feels much further away.
The decision to take away access to the city centre is a powerful way to reduce diversity, hide and segregate disabled people. I hope the council will think this through when assessing the impact of this move on equality.
I don’t feel welcome in back in York, do you?
You can read more about York city centre access issues in our blog post: The Latest: Disabled Access to York City Centre
We encourage you to sign up to the forum so that you can be notified of any consultations which take place on city centre access.
If you find any issues with trips into York city centre as things open back up, we encourage York’s disabled community to send feedback to City of York Council by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.