Galway, wheelchair friendly or not? As a wheelchair user unfortunately I have to say that my city is not! But it is improving, extremely slowly!
Being permanently confined to a wheelchair poses many problems – access to the city and the shops, pubs, restaurants and theatres is difficult and in most cases prohibitive to get into with a wheelchair. And I am not talking about electric power chairs that are usually heavier and wider than your normal everyday chair that you may see individuals pushing and being pushed in.
But even before you try to access these places you must negotiate the streets of our city, Galway. To the normal able bodied, the “cobbled” streets may look fine, but to wheelchair users, and some ladies in high heels, they are a nightmare. No smooth surfaces, water lodging in large pools and pieces of cobblestones jutting out make it extremely difficult to travel on them and lead to some wheelchairs users falling out of their chairs and ending up in a heap in the ground.
Then we have the “lower” pavements, that are supposed to allow wheelchair users cross roads in a safe place. Most of these are worst than the cobblestones; far too steep, too short, and most often are filled with standing water where they meet the road. The paths themselves are usually in bits with many cracks that protrude thus creating an environment that is more like an obstacle course. One wonders if it would be safer just to travel in the middle of the road, at least there you only have the traffic to consider!
Then there is the parking. People of Galway – wheelchair parking spaces are larger than most normal spaces as most disabled people require extra space to enable them to exit their cars and vans in a safe manner. These Blue spaces are for drivers and passenger who have Blue disabled badges, they are not for people delivering to local shops and offices, they are not drop off point for school kids and they are not just a normal parking space! When you point this out to most sane people you get an apology straight away and an assurance that it won’t happen again, and you feel good that you have just become an educator. We are all not saints, but there are individuals who will argue the point that they were only there for a minute!
So what is good about our great City? It’s mainly the people. The amount of times that locals come over and ask if you require assistance is great. I have fallen out of my chair a number of times, due to the problems highlighted above, and it is local people who I have never laid eyes on before that came to my assistance in helping me back into my chair. When climbing out of my chair, you the public are always willing to help with my transfer into my chair, for this I have to say a big ‘thank you’.
The local council are learning and making a small difference, but they have a long way to go. They are improving paths, and when you bring items to their attention they look into, and try to change things, albeit slowly, even in their own buildings. There are more disabled parking bays, but we could do with more. Then again, we could say that about all general parking areas.
The council ensure that disabled spaces are located adjacent to drop down or lower paths, so you can now gain access to paths beside your vehicle. A prime example is the prom; wheelchair users can use the prom with ease and can go for a “walk” along the smooth surface in the knowledge that the smooth surface will ensure that very few fall-outs will occur.
The council have also assisted with the purchase of a special adapted wheelchair that was introduced to the beaches of Salthill last year. This chair allows wheelchair users access over the sand and into the water. These are commonplace in the UK and on the continent, but to my knowledge this is the first one introduced in Ireland by a local authority.
However the city doesn’t have a Disability Officer. If there was one, disabled persons might find their city a more inviting place.
[Note: Galway City Council has a Social Inclusion Officer, who also serves as an Access Officer.]blog comments powered by Disqus