If you’ve been paying attention to local news, you’ll know that Reverse the Ban (a coalition of charities, associations, action groups and other organisations who aim to reverse the ban on blue badge holders’ access to York’s pedestrian streets) have been busy.
There was a peaceful protest at a full Council meeting on 20th October and it was hugely successful. Up to 100 people took part altogether despite the atrocious weather and many more were with us in spirit. The petition of 2,734 postcards (2074 from residents and 660 from visitors, including people who work in York or visit regularly from the surrounding area and tourists) was presented by Cllr Rachel Melly (Labour) on behalf of Reverse the Ban. Perhaps one of the most ironic twists to the evening was that Councillors were offered an alternative entrance to the council chamber if they wished to avoid the protest – through the aptly named ‘The House of Trembling Madness’ shop! Who knew that disabled people were so frightening?!
‘I fell in love with York aged 14. Now, aged 35, I am unwelcome’– One Postcard Respondant
There was lots of press coverage both locally and by the BBC, and one piece included some of the comments that were left on the postcards. It was a wonderful moment to see the 10 sacks of postcards placed on the table in the middle of the chamber. But one of the more shocking moments was that York Paralympian Beth Moulam was denied entry to the public gallery of the Council Chamber to see the petition being presented, and hear the later debate on disability, as there is no room in it for wheelchairs! Indeed the whole Council Chamber has now been assessed as ‘unfit for purpose’ for disabled councillors, staff and visitors.
At a debate later in the same Council meeting, there was unanimous support for a Labour motion to commit the council to adopting the ‘social model of disability’ in its approach, so we will be working at holding them to that!
The comments on the postcards (all 767 of them) were included in the agenda papers for the Customer and Corporate Service Scrutiny Management Committee papers which was held on 7th November. The petition, together with a review of the city centre access ‘action plan’, one year after the permanent ban was brought in, were considered in depth for over four hours. The recommendation from the Committee was to ask the new council Monitoring Officer to review the legal advice provided in November 2021; and to ask that a report be prepared for the full Council Executive on the issues raised by the petition and the additional comments. It’s very encouraging that these decisions were made as, although we remain pessimistic that the ban will be reversed by the current administration despite the strength of local opposition to it.