The Clonakilty Access Group was originally founded back in the mid 1990s to promote awareness of and better access for people with disabilities on footpaths, in parks, streets and other public areas of the town. It was quite successful over a number of years working in partnership with the then UDC, Clonakilty Business Association and other groups in the town.
After a number of years ‘in recess’ the group was reactivated again at a public meeting last May. One of the reasons, which the public meeting was held was because members of the old group had been receiving ongoing and regular complaints from people about access difficulties on narrow footpaths and other areas of the town.
Attendees included people with visual impairments, a stroke survivor and a parent of a young child whom she pushes around town in a buggy. They outlined how obstacles placed on footpaths not just create problems of access but are also a hazard for some of them.
“The main issues are very easily resolved as they are in the main temporary items placed on footpaths which create real problems for the less-abled in our community,” a representative of the Access Group stated.
At a recent committee meeting, the impending road-works going through the town centre, which will last for several months and the possible impact this may have on people with disabilities was discussed at length.
While everyone understands that there will be inconvenience, the Access Group is calling on the council, contractors and businesses to be aware of the needs and challenges of people with poor or no sight; wheelchair-users and people with prams and buggies during the works.
In particular, the ability to access town centre pharmacies (and many other businesses) and to be able to park cars as near as possible to them was a point of concern.
The Access Group committee has met with County Council and Chamber of Commerce officials in recent months and has asked for a meeting with the County Architect to discuss the final design of the town centre works.
In the meantime, businesses are asked to avoid placing obstacles on the footpaths or where unavoidable (for example beer keg deliveries), to ensure that they are not left out for prolonged periods.
Among items that can be problematic are: Advertising boards; Menu boards; Postcard stands; Pot Plants/Shrubs/Small Trees; Tables; Chairs; Seats; A statuette!; Items for sale placed/on display placed on footpaths; Beer kegs; Rubbish Bins; Low level Hanging Baskets/Floral Displays.
The group also asks people to respect the special parking areas reserved for disabled and parents and children.
The Access Group wishes to be positive and constructive but also points out that there is legislation and rights pertaining to access. “The problem is the lack of awareness or indifference displayed by able-bodied people on some occasions,” said an Access Group spokesperson.