Stratford’s Strategic Partnership keeping accessibility for all in mind
Accessible Stratford was founded by former police officer Elizabeth Dixon in the late 1980s after she was injured on duty in a road traffic accident, and since then has been using a wheelchair to get around.
Her voluntary organisation advises Stratford business on how they can make their premises more accessible to people with a range of disabilities.
Elizabeth explains why her voice is so important to be included on the Stratford Strategic Partnership Group, a collaboration between local authorities and prominent stakeholder organisations which is helping to influence key projects to improve Stratford for residents and visitors alike:
“I’ve been helping businesses in Stratford improve their accessibility for those with additional needs for many years now, but the fact is there is always more to do.
“The businesses I speak to tend to be receptive to my advice, and most do implement the changes I suggest. Poor accessibility tends to come out of ignorance rather than malice.
“But a lot of the time, there are simple improvements that can be made to help people with disabilities for only a small cost.
“It’s very important, therefore, that Accessible Stratford is represented on the Strategic Partnership so that accessibility is always taken into account as we help to shape Stratford for the future.
“For example, the planned improvements to Bridge Street and High Street that are on the horizon originally looked at getting rid of all parking to encourage more walking and cycling.
“However, I suggested keeping some Blue Badge spaces, as users, with poor mobility, a sight impairment or hidden disability need to park close to the shops they want to visit.
“While the plans have yet to go out to public consultation, I am hopeful that any planned changes will ensure those with disabilities will still be able to access Bridge Street and High Street easily, while also improving it for able-bodied people too.
“What is particularly pleasing about the Partnership is that my inclusion was not an afterthought – I was invited to join right away.
“I have been campaigning for a number of years now and many decision-makers in Stratford are aware of the work Accessible Stratford does, so to have a seat at the table right from the beginning and ensure that people with disabilities are represented shows my work is valued.
“The Partnership wants to work collaboratively to make Stratford as good as it can be in the future for all – including residents, visitors, workers and investors. All of these categories include people with a wide mix of additional needs, and in many towns, they are forgotten about.
“Not here. I am very happy for Accessible Stratford to be represented on the Partnership and I am looking forward to helping it shape Stratford in the right way for everyone. Access for All is important!