Disabled man’s access anguish on Sunderland housing estate

Wheelchair user Shaun Barker, whose five minute journey around Doxford Park took him over an hour and a half.
Wheelchair user Shaun Barker, whose five minute journey around Doxford Park took him over an hour and a half.
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A wheelchair bound visitor to Sunderland was left with his confidence in tatters after being unable to get from one side of a housing estate to the other - due to lack of drop kerbs.

Shaun Barker has spent his life in a wheelchair after being diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a youngster.

Wheelchair user Shaun Barker, with cousin Chris Eggleston, whose five minute journey around Doxford Park took him over an hour and a half.

Wheelchair user Shaun Barker, with cousin Chris Eggleston, whose five minute journey around Doxford Park took him over an hour and a half.

Stripped of the vast majority of his independence due to his condition, getting himself out and about on his own he says gave him some semblence of what it was like to live a “normal” life.

However, on a visit to Sunderland - to attend a family wedding - what should have been a short five minute trip from one side of an estate in Doxford Park to the other, took around 90 minutes.

The 27-year-old had been on his way to his cousin’s house in Ladybank from his aunt’s home at the opposite of the estate.

But, due to building works as part of a development by Gentoo being carried out, a path he would have used to make the journey was fenced off.

It was horrible seeing Shaun in that state.

Chris Eggleston

Instead, he had to travel around the perimeter of the estate where he ran into difficulty due to a lack of drop kerbs giving him a safe place in which to cross the road.

Mr Barker, who lives in Portsmouth said: “It was upsetting. I had been driving around for ages trying to get to my cousin’s address.

“When I got to a place where I needed to cross the road there was no-where, where I could get off the pavement safely.

“I don’t have a lot of independence because of the cerebral palsy. But I had to phone my auntie to come and help me.

Wheelchair user Shaun Barker, with cousin Chris Eggleston, whose five minute journey around Doxford Park took him over an hour and a half.

Wheelchair user Shaun Barker, with cousin Chris Eggleston, whose five minute journey around Doxford Park took him over an hour and a half.

“I just felt so deflated and upset and it’s really knocked my confidence. Having Cerebral Palsy has taken so much of my life away from me and it just felt like this was something else that had been taken away from me.”

What happened to his cousin has left Chris Eggleston angered and says while he understands building work needs to happen, provision needs to be put in place for those with disabilities and the elderly.

The 28-year-old said: “When my auntie found Shaun, he was in tears and distraught. He had been going round for ages trying to find a safe place for him to cross the road.

“He had been out for an hour and a half tryng his best before he had to phone my auntie. The journey should have only taken him five minutes.

“It was horrible seeing Shaun in that state. We are not just raising this issue because of Shaun but for other wheelchair users also.

“I understand work has to be done but they need to have provision in place for people with disabilities and the elderly when they put in alternative routes.”

Ian Porter, Executive Director of Assets and Investment Gentoo Group, said: “Gentoo is committed to providing great homes in Sunderland.

“When undertaking construction work, safety is of paramount importance, hence the closure of certain routes.

“We are happy to discuss the concerns of the visitor to the area regarding access.”