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How Access Officers in Sheffield Help Secure Independence for Disabled People

How Access Officers in Sheffield Help Secure Independence for Disabled People

The Equality Act 2010 covers the rights given in the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 that reasonable changes or adjustments should be made to ensure that everyone has access to businesses providing goods, facilities or services to members of the public.

Disability Sheffield wants to highlight the desperate need to continue to include disabled people in building an accessible city. It’s nearly 25 years since the advent of the DDA and nearly 10 years since the Equality Act and yet access to the built environment for many disabled people throughout the UK remains patchy. In the 21stcentury and in a developed country like the UK it is shameful that disabled people still need to draw attention to the difficulties they have in maintaining their independence.

This is because of the many physical, attitudinal and communication barriers we still find in our way.

Key to the tireless work and commitment of previous generations of disabled people is our right to independence through access of the built environment. But this may now be put at risk here in Sheffield as our local authority threatens to reduce the number of Access Officers working on disabled people’s behalf in the city.

Without the role of the Access Officers then disabled people would remain marginalised and their thoughts and expertise would remain out–with the planning, designing and development stages of accessible town planning.

The Parliamentary report ‘Building for Equality: Disability and the Built Environment‘, by the Women And Equalities Committee, published 24 April 2017 shows that the Involvement of disabled people was a cornerstone of the original Disability Equality Duty (Superseded by the Equality Duty), and its importance has been highlighted in case law. It was also cited by many of the committee’s witnesses as crucial for attaining a truly inclusive built environment.

The Design Council said, ‘Engaging individuals and groups in all stages of a project is indispensable. Without it, there is a continuing risk that we create homes, public buildings and spaces which cannot be used by significant numbers of people. ‘

During the last decade when central government policy has placed many disabled people on the margins of society because of political austerity and punitive measure around welfare benefits for disabled people and poor people, disabled people are once again going to pay the price for other industries failings e.g. the banking industry. Repeated slogans from leading government spokespeople who insisted ‘we all share the burden‘ is misleading because it is disabled people who have been consistently hammered with the effects of austerity policies.

Disabled people really need local politicians to support their independence, they are at risk of further marginalisation. Disabled people need Access Officers to provide them with support to build better built environments. Environments that can get them to work safely, get them in and out of school, college and university and to play a full and active role in society.

We cannot be coy about the situation. If Sheffield wants to be leaders in the field of inclusivity for disabled people then it has to lead by example and it has to retain its Access Officers in order to ensure the involvement of disabled people around consultation and the built environment. Otherwise it will threaten our very independence.

The Parliamentary report ‘Building for Equality’ said it received a significant number of submissions expressing concern that the reason accessibility was at risk of being given insufficient weight in planning decisions was a loss of expertise within local authorities. This, it was argued, had happened partly as a result of the loss of the expertise brought by Access Officers—specialists in access and inclusive design who often played an important part in advising decision makers and enabling the involvement of disabled people.

We feel it would be a false economy to use the excuse of ‘budgetary pressures‘ for the loss of such posts, and to further reductions in the size of planning departments. We understand, where Access Officers remain in post their local Access Group tend to view this as positive. Disability Sheffield and members would be disappointed and deflated to lose the influence of any Access Officer.

Please have a look at the change.org petition – our goal is to reach 100(00) signatures and we need more support.



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Very good presentation, brave of the speakers to tell their stories and had a very high impact - feedback from Mate/Hate Crime presentation and video session at Safeguarding Working Together Conference
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Disability Sheffield is a forward-thinking, energetic organisation doing a lot of positive work in Sheffield. I have no doubt they will continue to do so for a long time to come.
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When I moved to Sheffield nearly five years ago it was my "go to" organisation. I expect it to stay that way. All the staff and volunteers seem to pull out little gems of effort that disabled people like me couldn't do without. Professionally and personally - I love em :)
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Andrew Crooks

A fantastic presentation thought provoking and good questions from the floor around promoting this film/message to the general public not just professionals.
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