York council has discriminated against 7,500 disabled people

Disabled People in York protesting over Blue Badges being banned from the city centre
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York council has caused anger, upset, and uproar over its decision to ban sick and disabled people from parking in the city centre. The council claims it’s due to anti-terrorism measures. A campaign group, meanwhile, has branded the move a threat to people’s “human rights, independence and dignity”.

York: banning vehicles…

During the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in summer 2020, York city council stopped people parking and driving into the area around York Minister. The ban included sick and disabled people with Blue Badges, and it was due to social distancing needs. It was in an area called the “footstreets” – York’s pedestrianised part. Now, the council has voted to make the ban public. This time, the reason is terrorism.

As York Press reported, police superintendent Mark Khan said:

It’s not so much if a terrorist attack happens but when. It is reasonably foreseeable to see someone coming to York, if there wasn’t any hostile vehicle mitigation, at something like the Christmas market and driving that vehicle to kill as many people as possible.

The Lib Dem and Green Party-run council obviously listened to voices such as Khan’s. Because on 18 November, it voted to keep the vehicle ban in place.

… permanently

As York Disability Rights Forum tweeted:

Read on...

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The council’s decision will impact around 7,500 sick and disabled people in York who have Blue Badges. As York Press wrote, the Labour Party objected. Its MP for York Central Rachael Maskell tweeted she was “sickened” by the decision:

The council, as York Press noted:

voted to put in place a series of mitigation measures, including dropped kerbs, the employment of an access officer and a feasibility study into an accessible shuttle service.

A spokesperson told the Guardian:

The council has a duty to protect the lives of residents and visitors, but we know that doing so as effectively as the police advise will have a significant impact on some blue badge holders.

A disabled Liberal Democrat described themselves as being “distraught”.

Sick and disabled people: second class citizens?

Amy Fortnam said on Twitter she had quit the Lib Dems over the move:

Another user pointed out that York council was effectively stopping sick and disabled people going where non-disabled people can go. And some Green Party members were angry with the decision too.

The council reportedly also ignored a report by a human rights advisor saying that the plan “risked being significantly discriminatory”. So, as York Disability Rights Forum tweeted, it’s not like the council didn’t know the impact its decision would have on sick and disabled people:

Another group, York Accessibility Action, said there’s “no suitable parking” for sick and disabled people within 150 metres of the city centre. So the group is planning legal action against the council.

A twisted irony

Its crowdfunder has already raised over £5,000. York Accessibility Action said:

All attempts at communication and constructive consultation with the Council have met with no positive outcome and have failed to provide practical and meaningful alternatives to the ability to park close enough to the city centre.

We believe the City of York Council is disregarding the Equality Act 2010 and the human rights of disabled residents and visitors.

You can get involved online using #ClosedToUs.

The twisted irony of York city council making this decision at the start of Disability History Month probably isn’t lost on many sick and disabled people. Now, York’s sick and disabled people, and their advocates and supporters, will have to wait and see if the threat of legal action will make the council back down.

Featured image via York Accessibility Action

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Donate to York Accessibility Action’s crowdfunder here.

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