Pedestrianisation plans and a push towards cycling in Cork city centre have been described as somewhat “frustrating” by dwarfism awareness activist Carol Rice.
Speaking to The Echo, Ms Rice, who has restricted growth resulting in severe arthritis, said clarity needs to be provided on disabled access and parking in the city.
She has asked where disabled spots that have been removed from the newly pedestrianised streets under are being accommodated.
“For me, my car is my legs,” said Ms Rice. “It’s a lovely idea pedestrianising areas, but it has to be accessible.
“If you’re going to take disabled parking, that parking needs to be central to town. Otherwise, you’re socially excluding a disabled community.
“We’re meant to be creating an equal world for all, but I feel that it’s being made harder because of my disability.
“It’s a lovely idea, but it’s a lovely idea if you’re able-bodied.”
Public transport is not an option for Ms Rice, while she also cannot cycle, so she believes these plans aren’t built for someone like her.
“Sometimes it’s not an option for me to go into car parking facilities, because I have to try to hold down the brake, lean out the window to try to gain access to the tickets, and then for the majority of the time I need someone with me, because the ticket machines to put in your money are up very high,” she said.
“It’s like a Catch-22 situation. We’re meant to be moving forward, not back. Whilst it’s a lovely idea, it’s excluding people from being able to go into town.”
In the City Hall document, it was anticipated that disabled parking bays located on Tuckey St would be relocated within the city centre island, however it has not yet been clarified where these will be, or whether those lost from Pembroke St and Paul St will be replaced elsewhere.
Meanwhile, in the latest phase of pedestrianisation announced, it’s noted that the removal or loss of two disabled spaces will also occur on Liberty St.
“Cork City Council is very mindful of the impact of proposed changes in the city centre for those with mobility difficulties,” said David Joyce, director of services of operations (roads and environment). “In fact, the proposed changes will have the potential to impact on many different sectors — resident, businesses, shoppers, etc. Cork City Council has identified these streets as priority having reviewed Government Covid-19 advice.
“We are commencing the consultation process with key stakeholders and representative groups with a view to ensuring that all voices are heard and considered before final decisions are made. We could encourage people to keep an eye out for social media for information on how to further engage with this process.”
Ms Rice has said that for any relocation of disabled parking spots to work, they must be on a street or in an area that people can circle back around, and has suggested that a remedy to the situation could be reallocating the parking spaces on the South Mall for people with disabilities, elderly, or those with restricted mobility.
“If they’re so confident about the able-bodied people walking, then maybe they could change that whole street to disabled parking,” she said.
“I think they underestimate how important these spaces are.”
Ms Rice said she will contact City Hall herself to discuss her concerns.
However, she said that sometimes educating people on different needs is all it takes to ensure that everyone is included.
“On one side I get that it is beautiful to be able to walk around without traffic, but for us cycling bikes isn’t going to work,” she said.