MP vows to improve access for disabled people in Cheltenham
By Sarah Wood | 12th March 2020
Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk has vowed to help improve access around the town for disabled people, after hearing from the residents of the local Leonard Cheshire care home.
Residents at Gloucestershire House care home, run by pan-disability charity Leonard Cheshire, spoke to Alex Chalk MP about improving access in Cheltenham. The residents highlighted the need to make train travel and local public transport more accessible, and called for more suitable housing for disabled people. They also raised concerns about the future of an EU scheme providing young volunteers in their home.
Set up by Dave Evans and Chris Mathias, who both use powerchairs, many residents at the home took part in the positive discussion with the Conservative MP.
Speaking at the event, Alex Chalk said: "Improving access to premises and transport has been a theme for my time in Parliament and I am really happy to offer assistance with that. I am interested in finding solutions. Disabled people can help by informing us where there are issues. There is a lot of expertise and we need to call on it."
Co-organiser Dave previously secured council funding for an accessibility study, after working with Liberal Democrat councillors.
Dave said: "I felt very pleased with the day and I thought it was really successful. We valued the opportunity to talk about what matters to us and our MP had a genuine interest in what we said. Alex Chalk seemed positive and happy to help. So it will be good to build on the links that we've established and see some changes in Cheltenham - to railway stations and buildings."
Alex Chalk MP echoed charity Leonard Cheshire's calls for step-free access to rail stations. He said: "In Cheltenham our station is not good [for accessibility]. I encouraged the local authority to apply for Access for All funding... and I will push this again."
Leonard Cheshire's 'Get on Board' campaign for accessible trains found that 38% of UK stations do not have step-free access and that, at the current rate of progress, disabled people will not see full step-free access throughout the UK until 2070. The government set out a vision that by 2030 disabled people will have "equal access to the transport system", and so the charity is calling for a legal duty to make all rail journeys in Britain fully accessible by 2030.
The MP encouraged residents to let him know about inaccessible buildings in Cheltenham. He said: "Local authorities should be able to keep a record of premises holders that breach the Equality Act. I am meeting with ministers about this. We can then go back to them when they want their licences renewed or extended. We must also provide a higher proportion of social housing and a minimum requirement of accessible housing."
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