Outdoor dining must not make streets inaccessible, disability activists say

Outdoor dining must not make streets inaccessible, disability activists say

Representative groups say there were problems with outdoor dining last year. Picture: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

Outdoor dining must be organised in a way to allow for the inclusion of people with disabilities or it risks a significant cohort of people having their “rights denied”, representative groups have said.

On Wednesday, Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin announced a €17m scheme to develop a European-style outdoor dining culture that will provide grants for outdoor seating and accessories to help tourism and hospitality businesses.

Joan Carthy, the Irish Wheelchair Association's advocacy manager, said while it is important to support businesses after a difficult year, there needs to be adequate planning and consultation to ensure streets are still accessible to people with disabilities.

“Last year there were a lot of problems. Some of the things we were coming across was the wheelchair accessible [parking] spaces were being taken over... and tables were put into them to give extra space,” she said.

“We found there were tables put out in very small paths so people with disabilities couldn’t actually get past and were being forced onto the road or were knocking against things.” 

Ms Carthy acknowledged businesses were doing what they could to stay afloat, but said even in unprecedented times:

People with disabilities still have to be taken into account; they have to be able to access all areas.

June Tinsley, spokeswoman for NCBI, Ireland’s charity for the blind, said for blind or visually impaired people outdoor furniture becomes an obstacle.

“The reality is if street furniture goes right to the curb then people will have to walk on the road, and people who are blind or visually impaired may not see cars, and with the increase in electric vehicles, they may not hear them either,” she said.

“It’s just a question of planning. We need to ensure that the way it’s organised still leaves way for people who are not customers to get through and injuries are not caused.”

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