In a significant move towards inclusivity, York City Council has announced a comprehensive plan to enhance accessibility in the city centre for Blue Badge holders. Following extensive consultations involving over 3,000 participants, the council has decided to restore access to the heart of the city, effective from 4 January 2024.
This decision, described by Councillor Katie Lomas as a response to the city's priority of shaping "an accessible city centre for everyone," marks a reversal of the previous restrictions. The new arrangements will allow Blue Badge holders to navigate the city centre using staffed, sliding bollards at strategic locations, including Goodramgate, Deangate, and Church Street.
Recognising the diverse needs of the disabled community, the council has launched an inclusive programme of engagement activities, set to run from December to February. These include online consultations and workshops facilitated by the Centre for Applied Human Rights and the council’s Access Officer. The workshops, open to disabled residents, visitors, carers, and city centre businesses, aim to co-produce short-term and long-term solutions for city accessibility.
Councillor Peter Kilbane acknowledged the past inconvenience caused to Blue Badge holders due to the city centre closure, stressing the council's commitment to "improving access now and in the future." The council's approach is not just about reversing the ban but also about learning from affected individuals to enhance overall accessibility.
Professor Paul Gready from the University of York highlighted the challenges in making the city centre universally accessible, expressing commitment to supporting these efforts. The council encourages participation in the workshops and online consultation, emphasising the value of community input in shaping future policies.
Beyond just reinstating access, the council’s initiative represents a broader commitment to ensure York remains a welcoming and vibrant city for all. With these steps, York sets an example in prioritising accessibility and inclusivity in urban planning.