MEP urges the disabled to help shape new laws

From the left Alison Copping, Neil Aldous, Richard Howitt and Janet Banks at the West SuffolkDisability Resource Centre ANL-150712-145255001

From the left Alison Copping, Neil Aldous, Richard Howitt and Janet Banks at the West SuffolkDisability Resource Centre ANL-150712-145255001

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The east of England’s’ MEP has urged disabled people to give him practical examples to help make new European disability access legislation as strong as possible.

Richard Howitt , who is co-chair of the All-Party Disability Rights Group of MEPs, has fought for disability discrimination laws on the provision of goods and services for years and welcomed the announcement of a proposed EU law.

But meeting disabled people at the Papworth Trust’s West Suffolk Disability Resource Centre in Moreton Hall on Friday, he urged them to help him make the best of the law by expanding the list of services it will cover.

“This is your opportunity and I want you to make use of it,” he said. “It makes a big difference to me if I can go back to the Parliament and make these practical examples.

“Hopefully, this will lead to joined up legislation. For example, all new buses must have wheelchair spaces, but there is nothing to say the bus stop has to be accessible.”

Wheelchair users Janet Banks, Alison Copping and amputee Neil Aldous all told him of practical problems using cash machines, computers, buses and trains.

Neil said he found he needed to stand to use any cash machine while Alison said she never used them because she could not get close enough to the keyboards.

David Martin, external relations director for Papworth Trust, told the MEP: “One of the biggest issues disabled people tell us about is using trains – only about a quarter of stations allow people with a chair to turn up on the day.

“To travel from Bury to London at weekends you have to book 24 hours in advance.”

Mr Howitt said: “People are against racisim and sexism, but they don’t treat disabled people with the same respect.

“When people block a disabled person from getting on a train or going to the shops, that’s discrimination and legal measures should be in force.”

He felt European-wide legislations would ensure manufacturers of information technology would have to comply.

To give him your examples, email richard@richardhowittmep.com or write to: Richard Howitt MEP, Labour European Office,Unit 3, Frohock House, 222 Mill Road, Cambridge CB1 3NF.