Disability is a topic rarely discussed in mainstream media, mainly due to the sensitivity associated with it. However, I find it pertinent, given my recent experiences, to express some personal stories and experiences with disability, and question Canterbury's awareness of disability issues.
To preface, I am by no means claiming disability myself, since my issues only require a marginal lens correction to fix. However, my grandmother, who suffered a large stroke two years ago, is now unable to move her left arm and leg with ease, and has severely damaged eyesight. For our family it has been a struggle to quickly adapt to caring for someone, and this has been a steep learning curve in disability awareness.
The University of Kent is very up-to-speed with disability awareness, and has made significant strides to assist those with physical and mental disabilities in any way they can. The only draw-backs are the long waiting lists involved when proceeding with mental health services. In my own experience, I waited close to 7 weeks to start counselling sessions, but many more students have had to wait longer than this.
Canterbury town, however, shapes up badly in comparison. After asking around at some of the major sites in Canterbury and making a few observations of my own, Canterbury fares poorly compared to most other large English towns. This could be partly due to the age of the town, and the reluctance to make large-scale alterations in order to accommodate to the disabled. It takes a large amount of time, money and space to remodel an inner-city area, which would likely cause disruptions to an already thriving area.
The exception to this rule, however, are the main attractions of the town, such as the cathedral the museums. These have taken great strides to supporting the disabled. The cathedral in particular has a permanent ramp for wheelchair users, with disabled toilets, lift access and services linked to the touch and hearing centre to help those with visual impairment. Other museums in town also have similar services which remains encouraging, yet access to these locations remains a challenge. Furthermore, Canterbury City Council has the 'disabled facility adaptation' scheme to assist with people who need help adapting their homes to disabled living, which includes redevelopment of houses to include ramps and level access shower rooms.
Whilst there is strong disagreement to the building of the new multiplex carpark in Canterbury, it might bring necessary infrastructure changes which may aid in the long-term. As it stands, Canterbury's inner-city parking situation is pretty dire, and this limits the amount and location of disabled parking as well. By increasing the amount of disabled parking spaces in Canterbury, it may improve the issue with disabled access to the stations and the city-centre.
Unfortunately, due to Canterbury's aging demographic (excluding students), issues of disability are likely to become more prevalent in future years. This should be an eye-opener for Canterbury City Council, as it still has a long way to go to improve the issues facing them right now, yet alone the problems related to disability that will be experienced in the coming years.