Community Voices: Alex Squire – Disabled access in Lincoln still needs to be improved

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Alex is a 30-year-old powerchair user living in Bassingham. He is one of The Lincolnite’s first Community Voices columnists. He has a degree in Interdisciplinary Science BSc and Global Environmental Change MSc from the University of Leicester. He is a blogger and I regularly writes about disability, accessible travel, and more on his blog Apart from blogging, he likes reading, watching movies, documentaries, and I has a season ticket at Lincoln City FC.

As a quadriplegic powerchair user, wheelchair access is important, but unfortunately there are still quite a few places in Lincoln that don’t have disabled access.

I have lived near Lincoln for over 20 years now and have seen the city change a lot in that time.

The biggest changes have been around the Brayford area with a number of restaurants and the Odeon popping up.

For me, this development has been a good thing as it has created a hub of accessible restaurants and bars with disabled toilets (which are not always easy to find). It’s somewhere that I can hang out and go to the cinema or for a meal, plus it’s a short roll from the city centre.

Chain restaurants like Wagamama tend to have pretty good disabled access, whereas smaller independently owned restaurants or bars are less likely to.

In my opinion, Lincoln is not bad for wheelchair access overall, but some areas are better than others.

The High Street is mostly flat to roll on and the pedestrianised areas help as I can drive on the road, which is often smoother than the pavement. However there are some shops that are inaccessible, particularly near the top of the High Street.

Lincoln’s main attractions like the castle and the cathedral have decent wheelchair access – once you get past the dreaded cobblestones that is.

The castle has a lift to allow wheelchair users to get up onto the walls, which I think is impressive considering the walls were built in 1068.

The new visitor centre that is being built at the cathedral will include another changing places toilet so that will be a great help too.

But it’s not all sunshine and roses – a lot of improvement still needs to be made.

Many shops, pubs and bars in Lincoln are inaccessible. Some have a step at the front door, some are too small, and some don’t have a disabled toilet.

The area around Castle Square is particularly troublesome for wheelchair users because of all the cobblestones. These make the area more pretty, but they can be very uncomfortable for wheelchair users to drive over. Imagine sitting on top of a tumble dryer on full power and you get the idea.

Steep Hill, as charming as it is with its independent shops, is not wheelchair friendly. The cobblestones, narrow pavement, and the steep gradient make it about as challenging as trying to scale Everest for wheelchair users. Plus many of the shops on the street have steps at the front door and are in very old buildings which weren’t designed with wheelchair users in mind.

Lincoln only has one changing places toilet in the city centre (big accessible toilets with a hoist and adult sized changing bed). In contrast, Nottingham has 6. We need more as they are important for disabled people who can’t use the toilet without a hoist.

For disabled people, accessibility information is important because we need to know whether we can actually get into a place before we arrive.

This information often isn’t available on a company’s website or in the media. So to help fill this gap and to highlight where disability access needs improvement, I will be providing accessibility reviews in this column.

I hope that these will be useful for other disabled people and to help everyone understand better about the needs of disabled people.

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