Wheelchair user criticises Christ Church over meadow accessibility

A wheelchair user has criticised the lack of disabled access to Christ Church Meadow after he was unable to leave through a turnstile gate onto Rose Lane.

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Oxford local Colin Ridler was forced to retrace his route back through the entrance on St Aldgate’s back to his home in Iffley on Easter Monday.

Ridler, a commissioning editor for Thames & Hudson, has urged Christ Church to re-evaluate the accessibility of the Meadow so that wheelchair users can have proper access and leave through a convenient exit onto the High Street.

Mr Ridler told the Oxford Mail: “Imagine my frustration and annoyance to find that, while all able-bodied visitors could exit via the narrow turnstile gate, I was prevented from doing so by the small size of this gateway.

“In this age when by and large the needs of disabled people in public places are reasonably well catered-for and indeed required by legislation, it does seem remiss of Christ Church not to provide for wheelchair access in and out of the meadow via Rose Lane.

“I accept that the meadow is not strictly in public ownership but by encouraging the public to make use of it and enjoy it, you are surely under some obligation to ensure all can in fact gain access to it equally,” he added.

A regular commentator on disabled access issues across Oxford, Mr Ridler previously spoke out in February 2018 in criticism of accessibility to the new Westgate Centre. He accused planners of negligence for the shopping centre’s lack of practical taxi ranks for disabled people.

Christ Church have explained that they are keen to ensure that cyclists are still prevented from entering the meadow, but they have been reviewing the situation for some time.

Christ Church treasurer James Lawrie told Cherwell: “Christ Church opens the meadow 364 days a year to the public for free, and it’s much-used and much-loved. We will continue to review the situation because the last thing we want to give is the impression of excluding people.

“We are keen to maintain the calm and pedestrian nature of the meadow, and we are yet to find an option to allow wheelchair access without allowing in cyclists – it is not a bicycle route.”

In 2014, all parts of the University agreed to work within a common framework to promote a consistent approach to providing support for students with disabilities, underpinned by the Equality Act of 2010. This Act requires all universities not to discriminate against disabled students, which includes a duty to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled students are not put at a disadvantage.

A spokesperson for the Oxford SU Disabilities campaign said: “We are frustrated and saddened by the lack of accessibility throughout this University, including, as this article focuses on, at Christ Church Meadow. We are pleased to hear that Christ Church Treasurer James Lawrie has said the accessibility of the gates in the meadow are under review.

“We encourage Christ Church to address the issue as soon as possible, in the same fashion that we encourage all colleges and departments within our university to be ambitious and proactive in their improving facilities for the disabled community.

“Improvements are continuously being made at Oxford, but much more needs to be done. We will continue to campaign for the much-needed changes at Oxford until equal opportunities for disabled and non-disabled people become a reality.”

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