Accessible Florence

I’ve just returned from a short city break to the beautiful Italian city of Florence.

What made this trip so special was the fact that we’d managed to find an accessible apartment, right in the city centre, whose history went back to the 14th century. Most wheelchairs users don’t get much choice when it comes to accessible holiday accommodation, although this is slowly changing. Normally I have to stay in square box modern hotels with as much character as a drawing pin.

The accommodation we rented in Florence began life as an open market in the 14th century and was later converted into housing, and then more recently into seven apartments, our accommodation was on the ground floor and wheelchair accessible. Many of the period features have been

Searching for Utopia
Bronze of a man riding a turtle in Piazza delia Signora

retained, most noticeably the vaulted ceiling and exposed brickwork. To gain access from the street, we had to use the supplied split fold ramp but once up the only step, the accommodation was all on the level. We spent a very enjoyable and comfortable four nights in this historic apartment and would recommend it to anyone. Here’s the link http://www.palazzobelfiore.it/

If you’ve ever been to Florence, you will know that there are some things about the place that make it unique. The first is that it’s stuffed full of the most extraordinary art, sculptures and historic buildings. Second, it has some charming restaurants, and other eateries and third the

Me in my chair with the bike attachment
Me in my chair with the Batec attached. Near the Pitti Palace in Florence

pavements and the roads, particularly in the pedestrianised centre of the city, are an absolute nightmare if you are on wheels. Fortunately, I took a manual wheelchair with a Batec bike attachment fitted to the front. Here’s the link http://www.cyclonemobility.com/batec. With the bike attached
the small front wheel casters are lifted off the ground, and this meant that I was able to negotiate uneven and potholed pavements relatively safely and easily. If you are thinking of going to Florence, I would certainly recommend you use a wheelchair or scooter with big wheels.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, every gallery and exhibition we visited in the old city were wheelchair accessible and free, so my wife and I were able to enjoy just about all that Florence has to offer without breaking the bank. Another thing that impressed me was the fact that in a number of galleries there were tactile replicas of some of the paintings, which enabled sight impaired people to get a sense of the works of art on display, it would be good to see more of this in the UK.

Be warned Florence is an overwhelming experience so you will need to pace yourself. Fortunately, there are plenty of places to sit and relax, and the food and wine make relaxing an even more pleasurable pastime.

Have a good week and here’s some news which might be of interest to you. Supplied by John Pring Disability News Service

Government agency ‘blocked attempts to expose abuse of bus access loophole’

Lib Dem conference: Party picks first Westminster candidate from all-disabled shortlist

Premier League clubs ‘will break access pledge’ despite billion pound transfer spree

Grammar school plans ‘ignore impact on disabled pupils’ 

 

Rights and Wrongs

What’s grabbed my attention this week? Well a couple of things. Many of you will have heard the rumours about DLA and whether its to be cut. Well Andy Burnham the Health Secretary has made a statement which I’ve copied below. We’re not out of the woods but perhaps the news is a little less gloomy. I’ve also included a story about some younger disabled people who are about to expose access and I guess other barriers which prevent them from enjoying themselves in the ways that non-disabled young people do their thing! Pubs clubs and museums will form the basis of their enquiries. Good luck I say! Have a great weekend.
Minister promises DLA is safe – but only until you are 65

Health secretary Andy Burnham has promised that the government will not scrap disability living allowance (DLA), but only for disabled people under the age of 65.

Speaking at the national children and adult services conference in Harrogate, Burnham said he wanted to “close down” the debate and controversy over the future of DLA.

But he suggested that the government had previously been considering scrapping DLA, and that scrapping DLA for those aged over 65 was still an option.

Disabled people over 65 can currently receive DLA, as long as they claimed the benefit for the first time before they reached 65.

Burnham said: “We recognise that this is an important benefit for disabled people, and I can state categorically that we have now ruled out any suggestion that DLA for under-65s will be brought into the new National Care Service.”

He said this was because “the majority of the people needing care in the future will be older people”.

Questioned afterwards about the future of DLA, a Department of Health spokeswoman said: “No decision on that has been made yet for those over 65.

“It is still open to consultation. Depending on what they say we will make a decision.”

Concerns over the future of DLA, a key disability benefit, which is not means-tested and is intended to cover the extra costs of an impairment, were raised after the government published its care and support green paper in July.

The green paper said the government was considering “integrating” some disability benefits, including attendance allowance (AA), to help social services fund means-tested personal budgets.

Thousands of disabled people have protested about the threat to DLA and AA.

More than 13,000 people signed up within five days to a campaign launched by the Benefits and Work website, while many disabled people expressed their concerns on the government’s Big Care Debate website.

And a petition calling on the prime minister to save AA and DLA, launched on the Number 10 website by members of the Disability Charities Consortium, has secured more than 18,000 signatures.

Burnham also repeated the threat to AA, saying that the government was still considering “bringing together elements of some disability benefits, such as attendance allowance, with social care funding, to create a new care and support system to provide for the needs of older and disabled people”.

He said anyone receiving any of the relevant benefits at the time of reform would continue to receive an “equivalent level of support and protection” under the new system.
Trailblazers set their sights on discrimination in pubs, clubs and museums

Young campaigners are to investigate whether cinemas, football grounds and museums are breaching the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), in their latest probe into the access barriers facing young disabled people.

Volunteers will conduct undercover investigations into leisure facilities in villages, towns and cities across the UK and will give star ratings to access at local facilities in their area, such as pubs, clubs, theatres and leisure centres.

Up to 150 young people will be involved in the investigation.

The latest study is the third part of the Inclusion Now! campaign run by theTrailblazers network of young volunteers, which is part of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign (MDC).

Already this year the Trailblazers have investigated the barriers in securing a university education and using public transport.

Now they hope to highlight barriers, present solutions and highlight good practice in the leisure industry, and name and shame the worst offenders.

And they have not ruled out taking legal action against leisure providers that refuse to improve poor access.

Leisure, transport and higher education were selected for investigation after being highlighted by Trailblazers as areas where they were facing access barriers.

Some wheelchair-users had been branded a “fire risk” at cinemas, and were refused entry to sports and music venues.

Trailblazer David Gale, from Carlisle, said he encounters “vast differences” in access at the football grounds he visits.

He said: “The DDA says that ‘reasonable adjustments’ need to be made to make sure venues and leisure attractions are fully accessible.

“This investigation will ask whether this law is being broken.

“I hope this investigation will expose what some places are doing right and how others can improve to make sure everyone can enjoy them.”

Philip Butcher, MDC’s chief executive, said: “Many people take for granted the ability to watch a film, to visit a museum or to support their local football team.

“This simply is not an option to some disabled people if leisure facilities fail to conform to the DDA.

“The Trailblazers are determined, motivated and passionate about making society more accessible and I’m sure this report will have impact.”

To take part in the investigation, including the chance to fill in an online survey, visit: http://www.mdctrailblazers.org/campaigns/185#