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'Paralympics hasn't improved daily lives for disabled'
THE Paralympics has not helped improve the daily lives of disabled people, a leading Bucks campaign group says.
The event has been hailed as shifting public attitudes towards disability but Wycombe Area Access for All said while the achievements of Paralympic athletes were brilliant, the games have not led to significant changes to help the disabled in everyday life.
The organisation, representing people with disabilities in High Wycombe, Marlow and across the Wycombe district, said public transport in the area, in particular, remains a major problem.
Travelling to hospital, particularly now with services moving to Stoke Mandeville from Wycombe, has been highlighted as particularly hard.
The experience of shopping in a town centre like Marlow, especially the basics of getting inside a store without help, has not changed, WAAFA said.
Significant improvements have not happened despite the profile of Paralympians at London 2012 - and also Wycombe District Council's pledge to make the area the most disabled friendly nationwide - the pressure group said.
WAAFA told the Free Press: "Has the Paralympics meant we can get a bus to Stoke Mandeville? Has that meant the nitty gritty infrastructure is left in a better state?
"No, it hasn't. The Paralympics hasn't changed that."
Too many shops in towns around Wycombe still do not have ramps or wheelchair access and the internal layout is often difficult to navigate in a chair or a scooter, the organisation said.
The height of counters, for example at banks, or self service check outs at supermarkets, are also an issue, as are things such as switches for doors and electronic passes, WAAFA said.
It said: "It's all the little things that come together, it's the whole combination. We don't want wrapping in cotton wool, we don't want that. It's just about when we get into the bank for example, we want to be able to access the counter.
"It's not just the disability that disables us, it's society."
The organisation said people in wheelchairs just want to be able to get into a shop on their own without the embarrassment and inconvenience of having to be lifted in.
Buses, trains and other public transport continues to be a major concern.
"Public transport is not yet effective (in the Wycombe district) and not as effective as they (authorities) would like to think that it is," the group said.
For example, disabled people living in Marlow can not get directly to Bourne End or Beaconsfield by bus, the organisation pointed out.
A taxi fitted out to carry disabled passengers, from Marlow to High Wycombe, costs about £50 return and buses which say they are wheelchair friendly often are not, with ramps not in use, it added.
The council's Improvement and Review Commission will examine progress in the targets it set out last year to make it the most disabled friendly in the UK in September.
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