Disablity audit shows up Kingsland High Street shops

John Howard and Amy Gray outside Nat West, looking at a step which makes it impossible for a wheelch

John Howard and Amy Gray outside Nat West, looking at a step which makes it impossible for a wheelchair to access and there is no low bell to call for help. Amy Gray and John Howard are conducting a disability audit in Hackney to look at step free access in the High Street. - Credit: Vickie Flores

An audit of businesses on a major Hackney high street has revealed only 47 per cent of the shops, restaurants and services visited had disabled access.

De Beauvoir resident John Howard, 46, who uses a wheelchair, inspected almost 40 shops on Kingsland High Street, Dalston, as part of an ongoing project with Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate Amy Gray.

Although the idea came from a difficulty to find suitable venues to hold Conervative Party events, the results showed serious implications for disabled access throughout the borough.

Ms Gray said: “John really brought this to our attention as with all of the redevelopment going on in Hackney, we are really concerned a lot of places aren’t aware if they are doing up a premises they should be making them accessible at the same time. People who are mobility limited are being excluded from these venues.”

Among those criticised were buildings that housed large corporations like Natwest – which was found wholly inaccessible.

Mr Howard said people affected were not just wheelchair users, but people who were visually impaired, the elderly and those with pushchairs. Problems included no step-free access, heavy doors, narrow corridors and no markings for potential trip hazards.

Mr Howard said: “I’d tell businesses to be very mindful of accessibility as you are losing a lot of potential customers. People that are disabled and elderly are still a part of the community and they want to embrace their community and enjoy facilities that are out there.”

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A Hackney Council spokesman said it had been working with businesses to give advice and would be promoting this further this year..

He added: “Information for businesses is available on the council’s website which includes advice and guidance on disability access, communication and employment.”

Natwest did not respond to a request for a comment.