Campaigners call on Belper Town Council to improve disability access

Siobhan Fennell addressed Belper Town Council on issues around disability.
Siobhan Fennell addressed Belper Town Council on issues around disability.

The chairman of Belper’s new accessibility support group has called on the town council to back initiatives to make the area as inclusive as possible.

Siobhan Fennell of the non-profit voluntary group Accessible Belper was given the opportunity to speak to the council at a meeting in April.

She explained that the group had been set up to build on the the success of the town’s 2014 National High Street award by ensuring the whole community and its visitors will have equal access to all that Belper has to offer, with a particular focus on supporting people with disabilities.

Siobhan said: “This is not just about putting ramps in shops. This is about raising awareness across the whole of Belper to build a culture of understanding everyone’s needs and wanting to help.”

In 2015, the group conducted surveys at local events to ask people how they could help to improve accessibility.

Findings included the need to provide a chair to rest in shops, longer opening hours at the toilets in the River Gardens and more benches in King’s Street.

Siobhan said: “We’d like to work with businesses and other support groups to ensure that everyone can enjoy the Belper experience.

“For too long people with various conditions and disabilities have been unable to shop in many of our businesses or attend entertainment events in the town leading to increased isolation.”

She also discussed the economic argument for disability support, noting that one in five people are affected by disabilities, and some £12.5billion is lost to the UK economy because people cannot access certain services.

She added: “We have a wonderful opportunity to build on the town’s reputation for friendliness.”