Page last updated at 07:08 GMT, Monday, 21 September 2009 08:08 UK

Disability access 'still failing'

Kay Jenkins
Kay Jenkins was one of the mystery shoppers used to test services

Shops and services are still failing disabled people, five years on from legislation aimed at making them more accessible, according to research.

A "mystery shopper" study conducted by Disability Wales found attitude, communication and access issues.

Research for BBC Radio Wales' Eye on Wales found some degree of difficulty at most premises visited in Cardiff.

Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones said he could raise legislation issues with the UK government.

In 2004, a new clause was added to the Disability Discrimination Act, placing a duty on shops and other services such as banks, post offices, libraries, restaurants and cafes, to ensure they are accessible to people with disabilities by making "reasonable adjustments" to their premises.

Disability Wales, the national organisation for disabled groups and charities, recruited 38 mystery shoppers for a report entitled Streets Ahead, which scrutinised what progress had been made in the five years since the law was introduced.

It concluded that there had been changes in some areas, but the pace of change needed to speed up.

The report, which will be published on Tuesday, found that the attitudes of staff towards customers, communication and information aids and the ability of people with disabilities to physically access some premises needed improvements.

Although it highlighted some examples of good practice, the report warned that disabled people were "not being well served" and were deserting their local high street in favour of more accessible out-of-town retail parks.

Rhyan Berrigan, policy officer for Disability Wales and the author of the report, said: "You've got barriers to physical access, barriers to communication and attitude barriers as well.

"There's quite a high percentage of disabled people in Wales, I think it's about 20% and at the moment their access to local high streets shops and services isn't great, it can be improved.

"In most high streets it's a battle just to go shopping."

'Unhelpful attitudes'

Kay Jenkins, who is severely disabled by brittle bone disease and has to use a wheelchair, visited 10 premises in a Cardiff suburb for Eye On Wales and encountered difficulties in eight of them.

This included being unable to enter the premises at all; no low counter to serve customers with disabilities in banks; no disabled trolleys in a supermarket; an inability to reach the second level of shops due to steps; and unhelpful attitudes of staff.

Ms Jenkins, from Aberdare, said she was "extremely disappointed".

"It's 2009 now and people can't say that it's impossible to do alterations because it's not and there's always ways of doing things," she said.

"Even if they haven't got any permanent alterations they could have mobile ramps but they didn't have the attitude or the inkling to change things.

If there are examples coming out of this programme that we could actually raise with the UK government then we'd be happy to do that
Ieuan Wyn Jones, Deputy First Minister

"It is getting better. It think it's the old shops which need educating and need to be made to change.

"I earn quite a good wage and I want to spend my money. And I don't want to spend it on the internet, I want to spend it in the shop."

Disability Wales is calling for the "reasonable adjustments" clause to be strengthened and clarified when the Disability Discrimination Act is absorbed by the forthcoming Single Equality Bill.

In an interview with Ms Jenkins for Eye on Wales, the Deputy First Minister Mr Jones pledged to involve disability groups in planning legislation and to flag up their concerns.

"If there are examples coming out of this programme that we could actually raise with the UK government then we'd be happy to do that," he said.

Eye On Wales is broadcast on Monday, 21 September, at 1830 BST on BBC Radio Wales.



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