Disabled access and kissing gates
John Humphries was following up on a report that Suffolk County Council had been told to get rid of kissing gates and stiles under disability discrimination laws to improve access to the countryside for disabled people. He felt that these were erected in the countryside for a purpose, and disabled people just ought to accept that there were some places where they couldn't go.
Rosie Norris, Secretary of the Disabled Ramblers, accepted that the terrain may restrict them, but the main concern was man-made obstacles. At present disabled people are only able to use 1-2% of the rights of way in the country, and they are trying to increase this. Those taking children in pushchairs would also benefit, although it was much easier to lift a pushchair over an obstacle.
Guy McGregor, Suffolk County Councillor responsible for roads and transport, recognised that the Government was trying to encourage access to the countryside for everyone, and felt it was reasonable to replace these obstacles on routes between villages. However he felt it wasn't appropriate in more isolated parts of Suffolk. There were around 2500 stiles and 1740 gates of various descriptions in Suffolk, and they couldn't all be replaced. In the end it came down to the familiar question "where do we spend our money"?
To read more about Rights of Way in Suffolk, including those (such as country parks and RSPB sites) accessible to the disabled, go to this website.
To find out more about Disabled Ramblers follow this link.
Have you got some good walks in your area which are suitable for access by wheelchair and push-chair? Please let us know about them.