How wheelchair friendly is town centre?

Councillors joined the Accessibility Awareness event in Buckingham
Councillors joined the Accessibility Awareness event in Buckingham

Cracked pavements, blocked drop kerbs and a badly designed public toilet were some of the problems wheelchair users came across during an accessibility awareness day this week.

Buckingham town councillor and former mayor, Chris Strain-Clark organised the event on Tuesday morning to give people a chance to see for themselves what it’s like trying to get around Buckingham if they’re in a wheelchair, or pushing one, on a mobility scooter or pushing a baby buggy.

As well as town councillors and residents, top bosses from Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC) turned up to take part, including director Tracey Aldworth, deputy chief executive Jon McGinty and council leader Neil Blake.

Mrs Strain-Clark, who is a wheelchair user herself said: “The main issues were the general state of the pavements – damage to pavements, little gaps and unevenness that most people don’t notice – and the drop kerbs.

“So often, when you want to cross the road, there might be a drop kerb but there isn’t one on the other side. Or there’s a car parked in front of it.

“People on mobility scooters find it very difficult to access any of the shops because the doors are too narrow.

“Another problem was the actual doors. Even on the community centre, the two doors open outwards and if you’re wheeling yourself or on a scooter, there’s no way you can open those doors. So you have to wait for a kind passer-by to help.”

The disabled toilet on Moreton Road was also criticised for being in a poor state with a wet floor, and not enough room for people with mobility scooters to turn around.

But, Mrs Strain-Clark added, there were some positives with some shops, including The Duke’s Music and the Harpenden Building Society, having a wheelchair sign on the window and a bell disabled people can ring for help, while at Nelson Street restaurant, helpful staff rushed outside to offer their portable ramp.