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Who "independently assessed" the slope at Stanmore?

While the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, maintains that the steep slope at Stanmore station legally constitutes "disabled access", the independent assessment of this is increasingly under fire.

Last June, you may have seen an interview in the Harrow Observer with Justin Frishberg, a member of the London Wheelchair Rugby Club which trains at ASPIRE's facility in Stanmore. Justin detailed his experiences of Stanmore illustrating it is not just the ramp but the whole environment that is difficult for wheelchair users.

As Alex Rankin of ASPIRE said in that interview:

 "It's incredibly misleading to have that wheelchair symbol sign on Stanmore station.

"The wheelchair accessible ramp just isn't accessible for wheelchair users. It's far too long, the road is in such a poor condition and it's exposing people to danger. It is frustrating for anybody coming up to use Aspire or the hospital."

I'm of little doubt the issue at Stanmore illustrates the difficulties around a legal definition of 'disabled access', as first defined in the Disability Discrimination Act and now guided by the Equality Act 2010. Accessible in law doesn't necessarily equal accessible for all in practise, yet Transport for London's assessment is based on compliance with the law. We need a shift to focus on user's needs, not the bare legal minimum.

But the gradient of the slope is not the only problem at Stanmore. As users know, the car park is not open during the day time, and the disabled spot often used. I put these problems to the Mayor in a recent question:

Thank you for your response to Question No: 3660 / 2010. As you stated: “It should be noted that there is already a step-free route to and from the platforms at Stanmore using a ramp (which has been independently assessed as complying fully with British Standards) via the car park.” Unfortunately, the car park is closed during the daytime so step-free route is completely useless. Would you agree for a TfL representative to meet me at the station to fully discuss the options as soon as possible?

Answer by Boris Johnson

TfL is of course more than happy to meet you at Stanmore station to discuss the current accessibility arrangements in place and I understand that this meeting has now been set up.

 

It is true that, because Stanmore car park is heavily used, there are occasions when the NCP attendant responsible for the car park may temporarily prevent access for cars for a limited period during the day in the event of all the spaces already being taken. This is to prevent unnecessary congestion in the car park.

 

However, access for pedestrians requiring a step-free route is still available at all times. In addition, the car park should always remain open for mobility impaired customers to be dropped off or picked up even when the car park is full. If you are aware of any incidents when this has not been the case, please pass the details on to TfL who will investigate and take appropriate action.

 

What strikes me most about this response is the lack of imagination at Transport for London. No mention is made of interchange, it is presumed passengers with access issues will get to Stanmore by car, and Transport for London do not admit that the long walk from the bus stop to the car park entrance only compounds difficulties for those with mobility issues. A meeting has been set up between Transport for London, the Stanmore Society, ASPIRE, the Disability Foundation, the RNOH, the local MP, myself and consituents who have contacted me about access to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital. I will of course report on the  outcome here.

In the meantime, you can find Transport for London's step-free access guide, which contains more information on Stanmore and all legally denoted 'step-free' stations, here (opens PDF).

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24th January 2011