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.
As York Disability Rights Forum tweeted:
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Exec voted to make the blue badge exclusion 10.30 to 5 permanent, to extend that till 7pm till September 2022, and in the meantime start consultation around making the 5-7 exclusion permanent as well.
What I take from this is, York is not welcoming for disabled people.
— York Disability Rights Forum (@YorkDRF) November 18, 2021
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:
I'm honestly sickened that Councillors running @CityofYork voted to exclude Blue Badge holders (disabled residents) from the city centre without first putting in place full mitigation. Well done @YorkLabour for opposing. There is one word for it – discrimination. #NotInMyName
— 💙Rachael Maskell MP (@RachaelMaskell) November 19, 2021
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:
Absolutely distraught – emailed every @yorklibdems and @YorkGreens councillor imploring them not to go through with this. Have decided to resign my @LibDems membership. After six years of activism, speeches and campaigning. Disabled people are not collateral damage.
— Amy Fortnam (@amyfortress) November 18, 2021
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:
They voted to keep me, and people like me, out.
— York Disability Rights Forum (@YorkDRF) November 19, 2021
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.
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Donate to York Accessibility Action’s crowdfunder here.
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