The last few decades have seen something of a revolution in attitudes toward disabled access. Just a few decades ago, the inability of disabled people to get into their local football ground might have been seen as a hardship to be endured, rather than a problem to be solved. But now it’s broadly recognised that disabled people should be able to do the things that able-bodied people can do.
And thanks to technology, progress has been made. Wheelchair-friendly cars allow disabled people the freedom that comes with mobility, while voice assistants and the internet more generally make life easier in the home.
But what about public spaces? A YouGov poll commissioned in 2018 by Muscular Dystrophy UK found that only 3% of UK adults believed that tourist attractions provide easy access for disabled people. For Premier League grounds and railway stations, the figures were 11% and 6% respectively. This reveals a sizeable gap opening between our ambitions as a society and our actual achievements.
Of course, actually improving old facilities is a slow process. So how are things going in Teddington?
The Train Station
Back in 2014, it was revealed that Teddington’s train station would benefit from a £60m government fund for improvements of this kind. The Access for All programme came to be in 2006, and was made to improve train stations and make them more accessible. As well as benefiting disabled passengers, these improvements were also pitched as making life easier for those with heavy pushchairs and luggage to carry.
When the plans were announced, it was projected to be completed in 2019. MP for Twickenham, Vince Cable, welcomed the development. “Teddington is a major local station acting as an interchange between a number of different routes, but many passengers have been unable to make use of that interchange because the only route between platforms was over the footbridge.”
In 2020, Network Rail announced that the work to install a pair of lifts at either end of the bridge would go ahead in 2022/23, which just goes to show that progress in these things can often be achingly slow.
Access to Sport
Sport plays a vital role in keeping us active and healthy, as well as providing a social outlet. Providing disabled people with access to these things, clearly, is critical. Teddington Sports Centre does extremely well in this regard. There are ground-floor disabled changing and shower facilities, as well as a lift which allows disabled people to reach the other levels of the building.
Among the most notable support from the charitable sector in Teddington comes from Richmond AID, a charity run by and for disabled people in the area. They provide a range of services, including counselling, impartial advice, and a jobs club providing weekly sessions to disabled people looking for work. Naturally, they also act as an advocacy group for disabled people in the area. They’ve spoken up on behalf of particular residents who’ve struggled during the Covid-19 pandemic – and their efforts are hugely appreciated by those for whom they speak up!