Making Sunderland more accessible: How chiefs plan to improve the city for people with disabilities

Dropped curbs, improving access to schools and working with bus operators are all areas council chiefs in Sunderland are targeting to improve accessibility in the city.

Friday, 7th January 2022, 1:16 pm

Councillors on the city council health and wellbeing scrutiny committee on Wednesday (January 5) received an update on work being carried out to improve accessibility in Sunderland as part of their work programme for the year.

Stephen Dixon, group engineer from the council traffic projects team, explained how numerous steps have been made, with further plans being lined up, to increase accessibility.

He said: “All new projects that we approach fully consider accessibility needs.

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Chiefs want to make all parts of Sunderland more accessible for people with disabilities.

“All infrastructure, planning and transportation service schemes will continue to take into consideration accessibility guidance and that will carry on, that’s current, planned, and future schemes.”

The city council already has in place an “access for all” programme to target wider areas where residents need better access to local facilities.

Work to date has included multiple dropped crossings or path extensions to allow better and easier access to transport links, doctor’s surgeries, health centres and shopping areas.

A “routes to school” programme is also in place to improve walking routes to and from schools, while 20mph zones aim to make residents “feel comfortable” accessing routes available to them.

Funding is additionally set aside for “quick wins” where needed, such as for dropped curbs, ramps and handrails.

Cllr Juliana Heron said she welcomed the report, and added work to implement dropped curbs has been particularly beneficial.

She said: “They are essential to anybody who has mobility problems, there are a lot of scooters about now, and to make areas all accessible for all, the dropped curbs are a major thing for the people.

“I think it’s getting there, but I think we still have a bit to go.”

She added issues to improve include ensuring buses access curbs at the designated stops, and council chiefs stressed they do work with operators to improve accessibility.

Cllr Neil MacKnight, chair of the committee, urged the importance of councillors and residents being consulted in highlighting where accessibility schemes are needed.

He said: “What’s coming out loud and clear is that kind of consensus across whatever political group you come from is that willingness or want to actually help make this a policy and make it better.”

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