Highwayman Dick Turpin once famously preyed on travellers crossing Hounslow Heath. But now wheelchair user Ray Bellisario has found new danger on the town’s highways.
It’s a narrow winding road in suburban Hounslow on which cars, buses and rushing delivery vans whizz by. You are in a wheelchair wanting to get to Asda or any of the other businesses that line the busy road.
From where you alight from the bus, it’s not possible to avoid using the road. Furthermore, it’s along this road that the council loans out wheelchairs on daily hire! (If your wheelchair has ever had to go in for repair, you know that using a hired one, no matter how good it is, takes time for you to acclimatise yourself to another.) Therefore there’s nothing to discourage the use of this vital street for the wheelchair user in Hounslow. For all I know, the same could be the situation elsewhere.
Here, many of the hurrying drivers shout and gesticulate – they have no time for slow-moving wheelchairs. Some get into quite a rage.
Along this public highway, there are 16 points at which there should be ramps, but these essential safety requirements have been overlooked for the past 6 years since laws came into force. The laws regarding enforcement of such things are simply ignored by the London Borough of Hounslow. Though they’ve been informed, the local authority appears to be not interested in doing anything about it.
There is a string of 8 places where ramps, also called dropped curbs, should be. There are also places where the persistent dumping of heaped black rubbish bags by traders who have no care or consideration for people needing to even walk along pavements, let alone wheelchair users or blind people causes further problems. Pedestrians are expected to step into the road, but for some of us it’s not as simple as that.
The risk of an accident resulting from a wheelchair user being unavoidably in the road is quite obvious. One can attempt to dodge the traffic, accept motorists’ glares and ignore the foul language. But you can’t dismiss the danger. It requires patient and understanding drivers to know why a battery-powered wheelchair is where it is. Here lies the first problem.
The motorists don’t know there are 16 missing ramps. They are going about their own business; they are not looking for dropped curbs absent from pavements. Naturally, able-bodied folk don’t necessarily THINK DISABLED.
What’s to be done? Should a one-man blockade of the road be mounted; that will bring the police but not the Council. Plus it would be in breach of the law, rather like those who create the difficulty. Writing to the local MP might only bring from her an ‘out of budget’ reply.
Certainly this one isolated road is not the only place in Hounslow where ramps and other facilities are not implemented. I know of more. Others could just as easily bring complaints to the attention of the council, no doubt there are very many more. Perhaps the policy is to ignore them all.
While all this goes on, a serious accident could occur at any time. Possibly then, perhaps when someone injured is taken to hospital to further drain the over-stretched funding of the NHS, someone comfortably sitting in one of Hounslow’s many dispersed offices will take notice.