Flick Harris from Manchester – accessibility for disabled people

by Milena Rampoldi and Denise Nanni, ProMosaik. In the following our interview with Flick Harris, Chair, Manchester Disabled People’s Access Group. As press portal for human rights, ProMosaik engages for a world without any kind of discrimination, and in the field of people disabilities ProMosaik cooperates with the Artemisia Project in Berlin. On this basis, we have decided to interview Flick from Manchester to get impulses about her work with disabled people. Would like to thank Flick for her time and the images she sent us.

 One of your activities is to raise awareness about the problems that people with disabilities have to face everyday. Where do you implement this activity? (schools, community centers..) We raise awareness about the problems people with disabilities faces in their all-day life as follows:
1.       with other disabled people and with disabled people’s and community organisations e.g. stroke association and other impairment specific groups, mainly around access issues and people’s rights under the Equality Act and through legislation, policies and guidance in the built environment and in parks etc
2.      with other equality and diversity groups
3.      with local authority staff
4.      with architects, developers, planners, building control officers and other professionals in the built environment
5.      with neighbourhood groups and regeneration projects
6.      with developers and organisations e.g. Christies Hospital who are doing developments affecting disabled people
7.      through consultations in the public sector and government departments
Accessibility is probably the first step towards social inclusion. What is the situation in your area right now, are public institutions and private venues (restaurants, shops..) responsive about this issue?

The public sector is a lot less responsive since the Disability Discrimination Act was replaced with the Equality Act and public sector organisations aren’t monitored and don’t have to consult or create annual plans and targets. Private venues are often only interested in access when there are campaigns or complaints. Some issues are improving eg. information in the NHS and Manchester City Council which has currently started to implement a strategy around disability but it is hard work and a long haul and many businesses are not interested. Some new buildings and roads in Manchester are extremely hazardous for disabled people and are probably in breach of the Equality Act but it is too expensive to take legal action.


How do you cooperate with the public sector? Do you have any suggestion for public institutions and policy makers in order to promote the empowerment of people with disabilities?

Have a policy across all departments including housing, planning, licensing, information etc and involve disabled people’s organisations. Have annual reviews and plans which are implemented in consultation with disabled people’s organisations. Support, through grants, the continuation and development of access groups and other disabled people’s organisations. Fund advice services and law centres and reinstate legal aid for people taking action under the Equality Act. Incorporate access issues with other equality and diversity issues, e.g. designers making sure that baby changing areas are accessible for disabled parents and others in charge of children, ensure that there are toilets, accessible, available for transgender people, ensure that accessible facilities are also environmentally good e.g. water saving facilities and waste facilities related to accessible fixtures and fittings, ensure that Wudu washing facilities are accessible to disabled people etc. This is such a large topic that I have only given a flavour and haven’t included issues around independent living, employment and benefits issues which are mainly dealt with by other disabled people’s organisations in Manchester but can comment on them if necessary.