Monday, 21 August 2017

I can’t get round village, says woman in wheelchair

A WOMAN with cerebral palsy is campaigning for disabled facilities in Sonning Common to be improved.

A WOMAN with cerebral palsy is campaigning for disabled facilities in Sonning Common to be improved.

Hannah Rice, 21, says a lot more could be done to help people who use wheelchairs or mobility scooters.

She would like to see:

lA pedestrian crossing installed in Wood Lane.

lBarriers in pavements removed.

lRamps or bells fitted outside shops.

Miss Rice, 21, of Woodlands Road, made a presentation at the annual parish meeting with her neighbour Ros Varnes after they investigated disability access in the village.

Ms Varnes said: “All wheel-users require good, smooth pavements and ease of access crossing the road.”

She said the Sonning Common community plan in 2010 had shown that 40 per cent of villagers were over 65.

“It’s important that we look at these issues and try to find solutions,” she said. “We’re realistic in that some things may have quick solutions and others will be more medium- to long-term but the first thing is to raise the issues.”

Miss Rice, wbo graduated from university last year and hopes to become a TV presenter, said: “It’s not just about the disabled, it’s the elderly and those with pushchairs — anyone with wheels.” She highlighted four alleyways that she said were so narrow that they were difficult for her to access in her wheelchair, including one between Grove Road and the health centre in Wood Lane.

Miss Rice said: “It’s wide at the top but at the other end it’s very narrow. If someone comes the other way one has to go back.

“From my experience it’s quite hard to go backwards in a wheelchair in a straight line and I could hit the fence.”

The other alleyways were near Peppard Road, Sonning Common Primary School and the Herb Farm.

She also found her wheelchair wouldn’t fit through a barrier in Green Lane and suggested it should be widened or removed. Miss Rice, a former pupil of Sonning Common Primary School, found uneven kerbs which could puncture tyres and complained about the hazard of wheelie bins left on pavements on collection days.

She said: “Sometimes I have to go on the road to avoid the bins, which makes my journey unsafe.”

Miss Rice said there were a number of businesses she couldn’t use due to a lack of disabled access.

At the Sonning Common Fish Bar in Green Lane, she has to wave to staff from outside to get served and she has never been able to enter the Christian Community Action charity shop in Wood Lane.

Miss Rice said the new open-plan layout at the One Stop shop, also in Wood Lane, made it easier for her but claimed the door was so heavy it was hard to open. She also encountered problems with access to the health centre.

“Although they’ve got an automatic door, once you’re inside there’s no indication to let the reception know you’re there,” she said. “I’ve spoken with the health centre and they’re very open to me suggesting what can be done.

“A sensible way to improve access to businesses, if they can’t get a ramp, is to have a bell so at least they know someone is outside. It’s an inexpensive solution and there is a good example of this is at the library.

“Hopefully, through consultations with businesses, these small changes can happen.”

Miss Rice said a crossing was needed in Wood Lane because there was no way of safely crossing the road.

She also requested that overgrown hedges be cut back and that the flower bed next to the bus stop outside the One Stop shop was reduced because it leaves little room to manoeuvre her wheelchair when getting on a bus.

Miss Rice suggested that the proposed skate park in Bishopswood Sports Ground should have disabled access.

“I would really like any disabled person or wheel-users to be included in the design,” she said. “It would be good if there were small ramps just so we feel we’re not excluded from activities in the village.”

Councillor Carole Lewis, who chairs the skate park working party, said she would like to see a second skate park to accommodate younger and disabled children.

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