Accessible paths in Blackbirds Moor, Boxmoor
On Friday 23rd November 2012 I was invited to attend a meeting to review accessible paths in Blackbirds Moor, Boxmoor.
Ten people with a wide range of physical disabilities were invited. The team had to audit this area reporting back to Chiltern Conservation Board for a new community project called “Access All Areas”.
The audit team
The team included someone in a wheelchair, two with very poor sight, three people with poor hearing and me on my mobility scooter. There were also a couple of dogs, one for a blind person and one for a deaf person. I think we had physical disability pretty well covered. Blackbirds Moor is in Boxmore a residential area just outside Hemel Hempstead. The Moor is used by people taking physical exercise plus there is a cricket ground with a club house. Boxmoor trust manages the Moor.
Did you know?
Only 10% of the blind peo0ple read Braille. There is a blind person at my bridge club, she uses Braille cards. How she copes is a mystery to me, I have enough problems playing and I can see the cards. Doing it all from memory is a remarkable feat.
The team were looking at 3 things, quality of the footpaths, overhanging branches and gradient of the paths. Disability covers a huge spectrum, what is OK for me causes a blind person immense difficulties.
We started the assessment at a bus stop.
- In order to get onto a path from the bus stop you had to walk down a grassy slope. This would be OK if everything was dry, On this occasion the grass was wet and slippery.
- There were plenty of benches alongside the path but they should all have a hard surround, this makes things so much easier for a person in a wheelchair.
- There was a large map of all the land owned by the Boxmoor trust in Hemel Hempstead. It did not show your location, a simple arrow indicating your position would have made the map much more meaningful.
- There were wooden stumps, 5cm square sticking out of the ground by about 3 cm along the edges of a path. It would be so easy to trip over something like that if blind or not watching where you were going. These would be a real hazard at night time.
- There was a branch from a tree that was just above head height. A cyclist would certainly have to duck their head.
- We came across a flight of steps, oh dear, oh dear. The banisters were not a lot of help, the lip of nearly every step was crumbling and there was no evidence of white paint on the lip of each step. The white paint makes it much easier to identify the edge of the step. We decided that it would not be sensible to ask one of the blind people to prove our point.
- At the bottom of these steps there were uneven flagstones and these represented a big hazard. I think even an able bodied person could trip over them.
- The path from this point onwards was uphill. It was only indicated by a muddy and slippery path made by people walking over the grass very frequently. My mobility scooter had difficulty coping with this and on occasions I had to get off and walk it over the mud.
We noticed 8 problems that did not make the Blackbirds Moor fully accessible for the disabled. Some are much more significant than others. Will anything be done about this? As always it comes down to money and responsibility, so we must wait and see. I will keep you updated.
Thanks to Phil Chambers for his assistance and Ian Richardson for the arrangements and transport