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UEA drive to make roadworks more accessible

Man with guidde dog at crossing

Stepping around roadworks can be an inconvenience for the able-bodied but, for people with a disability, they can be a potentially dangerous hazard or insurmountable obstruction.

The University of East Anglia (UEA) set up mock roadworks on its campus on Wednesday 23 August to highlight the problem and find ways to improve accessibility for members of the public who have a mobility impairment – around 10 per cent of the population.

“We ran the event in partnership with Oxford Plastics, a major manufacturer of roadworks equipment, and invited around 30 guests, representing a wide range of disabilities, including the Norwich Access Group and the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, to test the layout,” said Katherine Deane, senior lecturer in UEA’s School of Health Sciences and herself a wheelchair user.

“According to NHS England, there are 1.2 million wheelchair users in the country, but they’re not the only people who can find roadworks difficult to navigate. Anyone with a leg prosthesis would, for example, find ramps challenging, black objects can look like holes to people with Alzheimer’s and visually impaired people need space for their guide dogs to walk beside them.

“At UEA, 12 per cent of our students have some sort of disability and we’re proud to have one of the most accessible campuses in the UK. Our experience has shown us that relatively small changes can make a big difference – it often just takes a little extra thought. There’s a Code of Practice containing the legal requirements for setting out roadworks but it doesn’t go far enough. We’ll use the feedback from this exercise to put together a set of guidelines that make accessibility a priority – and one that’s easy to achieve.”

Charlotte Whiteley, Marketing Co-ordinator at Oxford Plastics, added: “We were thrilled with the turnout for the inaugural Disability in Roadworks event. With over 40 attendees representing disability charities, the Norwich and Norfolk Councils, contractors and utility companies, we were able to have well-rounded conversations about roadworks from every perspective.

“This event has been pivotal for all of us at Oxford Plastics. When wheelchair users find that 50 per cent of roadworks are inaccessible we have a big problem! By listening, learning and reacting we hope to make a difference not just through the products we make, but in our understanding of accessibility. We are very grateful to everyone that came out to make the day a success, and for giving valuable feedback which will help Oxford Plastics to develop products that are fit for everyone.”