Plans to make Eastbourne more accessible for people with disabilities

Eastbourne Borough Council is set to look at how it can make sure public services in the town are accessible to all including those with visible and hidden disabilities
Eastbourne Borough Council is set to look at how it can make sure public services in the town are accessible to all including those with visible and hidden disabilities

Proposals looking to ensure Eastbourne’s public services are accessible to all have been given the early backing of council leaders this week. 

On Tuesday (July 9), Eastbourne Borough Council’s cabinet agreed, in principle, to carry out an audit of public buildings and services to determine the current levels of accessibility for disabled people.

The council says it hopes the audit will be the first step in a wider effort to raise the profile of disability access in the town, with the authority already looking at setting up an accreditation scheme for local businesses and other organisations.

Speaking after the meeting, Rebecca Whippy, cabinet member for disabilities and community safety, said: “This administration is fully committed to the inclusion of all disabled people, mindful that a disability is not always visible. 

“This audit will build on the access work already carried out at the council and we hope it further raises the profile of this issue, leading to further improvements in accessibility across the town.

“Although the council strives for equal access and usability for its facilities for everyone, it is aware that the disabled community still struggle to access public facilities, our own included. 

“The council wants to work towards being a leading council for equality and inclusion – setting the benchmark for other councils and making a better life for all our residents, including those that are different needs. “

The proposals won cross-party support, with Conservative group leader Tony Freebody speaking in favour during the meeting.

Cllr Freebody said: “It is very easy to think of disabilities as [only] physical disabilities, but there are a lot of people out there with mental health problems, learning disabilities and autism, so this is very much welcomed.

“Twenty per cent of the population in Eastbourne have some kind of disability so this is capturing a key demographic.

“I really welcome this. I think it is a really fabulous start and if there is anything our group can do to help, you would be more than welcome.”

Detailed proposals are expected to return to cabinet in the near future, as officers look to flesh out what action the council can take.

This would include work around setting up an accreditation scheme, where local businesses and groups can show they have good disability access arrangements.

Officers will also look at the details of the access audit itself, with the aim to hold it this autumn/winter.

According to the council, this audit would be expected to look at everything covered by the Equality Act 2010, including: physical disabilities; visual impairments; being deaf or hard of hearing; mental health conditions; learning disabilities; acquired brain injuries; or autism spectrum disorders.

The council also expects to consult with its local Disability Involvement Group (DIG) on the wider proposals.

Cllr Whippy said: “Our accessibility audit is just the start of our work in this area and from this, and our work with DIG and other local community groups, we hope that great things will come for all our residents.”