A councillor is calling for Rother District Council to do more to improve disabled access in Bexhill.
District and county councillor Charles Clark is asking RDC’s planning officers to write to all the town’s shop owners to request they provide wheelchair access.
Cllr Clark said: “The government does not enforce disabled access for existing premises, only for new shops and refurbishments.
“There are over 50 shops in Bexhill that do not have wheelchair access. I believe this discriminates against disabled people. It means they will always have to phone up and enquire about access if they wish to visit a hairdresser, go out for a meal, visit a card shop etc.
“Providing wheelchair access at shop doorways is not expensive, but would make such a difference to the quality of lives of disabled residents.
“Also disabled residents always have to check if cafes have disabled toilet facilities.
“Many shopkeepers rent the premises, so it’s up to the landlords to provide wheelchair access, although they cannot be forced by law.
“I believe a real effort should be made to ask them to show a sense of community and provide wheelchair access. To be unable to access a shop because of no wheelchair access is wrong.
“If disabled residents are to be treated as equals in today’s society, then we need to do the practical things to make that possible.”
A Rother District Council spokesman said: “We do understand Cllr Clark’s concerns about disabled access to shops and other businesses. However, while we do have powers in some circumstances to ensure disabled access is included in new buildings or those undergoing refurbishment, we have no powers to enforce this at existing premises.
“We would very much encourage business owners to provide disabled access wherever possible, although we also understand the difficulties and costs that may be involved. We’re happy to offer advice to any business owners who’d like help in making their premises more accessible, and would ask them to contact Jonathan Cornell by calling 01424 787670 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org”
He added the council has an access map, produced by Hastings & Rother Disability Forum, which is available on the council’s website at www.rother.gov.uk
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