New scheme will rate Eastbourne businesses on access to disabled people

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Plans for a new scheme to accredit Eastbourne businesses and public buildings for their accessibility to disabled people were approved this week by the council.

It is part of the authority’s drive to become a leading council for equality and inclusion, which includes improving disabled access across the town and at its own facilities.

Councillor Rebecca Whippy, the council’s lead member for disabilities and community safety, said, “We want to make life better for all our residents whether they have a disability or not. This voluntary scheme will celebrate good practice and, we hope, inspire many local businesses and other organisations to become more accessible.”

Under the new accreditation scheme, businesses wishing to participate will initially submit an online form about accessible design features of their premises, provision of staff disability training and policies that make their organisation accessible to disabled people.

If key criteria are met, trained officers from Eastbourne council’s Neighbourhood First team will visit the premises to confirm the information supplied. Once verified, the applicant is provided with an accreditation logo to display.

The scheme is to be launched later this year.

Alongside this, cabinet councillors last night also agreed the format of an access audit of council-owned buildings and facilities.

The audit is to focus on the full range of disabilities covered by the Equality Act 2010 including physical disability, visual impairment, being deaf or hard of hearing, having mental health conditions, a learning disability, an acquired brain injury or autism spectrum disorder.

An initial programme over four years would cover council offices at 1 Grove Road, Eastbourne Town Hall, 54 children’s play areas, 22 public toilets, leisure centres, the Tourist Information Centre, Ocklynge Cemetery, Langney Cemetery and Crematorium.

Cllr Whippy said, “It is crucial we lead by example. This audit programme uses our existing resources and will allow us time to act on its recommendations so we are confident we are doing all we can to give the disabled community the access they need and deserve.”