A mobility scooter test run
For a number years I had wanted to do a test run on a mobility scooter around Brighton and Hove, to experience first hand the possible problems that disabled people encounter when using such vehicles. As the opposition spokesperson for Adult Social Care and Health on Brighton and Hove City Council, I volunteered to do just that. With the very kind help of the Shopmobility Centre, I drove the scooter from Churchill Square, to the Brighton and Hove Bus Company depot in Conway Street, Hove.
Problems of bus access
I was accompanied by two scooter users who are Shopmobility volunteers and we travelled via Churchill Square, Western Road, Church Road and Goldstone Villas to the bus depot in Conway Street, Hove. Once there I took part in a prearranged access test for getting class 2 disability scooters on and off buses, which I quickly discovered is no easy task. I successfully accessed a bus on my scooter but discovered that to exit I had to reverse out onto the pavement. Rear view mirrors would have helped considerably as I am used to using them whilst driving a car. I discovered that other, shorter wheel base types of wheelchair, that can turn in their own length, are able to carry out that same exercise with greater ease.
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General access problems
Following the bus test, I returned to Churchill Square via Sackville Road, Hove Street, the south side of Kingsway and Preston Street. The main problems I encountered on my route were:-
- ‘A’ boards and tables and chairs on pavements outside cafes and restaurants which in many cases reduced the pedestrian/scooter width to less than the prescribed 1.3 metres. That means that this narrow area has to accommodate pedestrians, disability scooters, mothers with children in buggies and people with various disabilities such as sight impairment.
- Uneven pavements and tree roots which, in some cases, made for quite unpleasant repetitive jolting of the scooter and hence the human body which clearly cannot be that good for people with certain types of disability.
- Vehicles parked on pavements and over dropped curbs and a number of incidents of a dropped curb on one side of a road junction but not on the opposite side.
- Pedestrians who clearly are either not aware of people in wheelchairs, or just look at you and ignore the fact that you are there.
I am investigating the possibility of getting the surface and obstacle problems improved, but the difficulties posed by unthinking or unsympathetic pedestrians could be very much harder to resolve.