Councillors in the Scottish Highlands have expressed their concern over plans to improve disabled access in bars and restaurants in the area because they fear solutions could be inadequate.
One member of Highland Council anticipates that the improvement plans will be a “tick-box exercise, allowing venues to clear out a storage cupboard, put in a toilet and some handles and call it disabled facilities.”
Wheelchair-bound councillor Andrew Jarvie’s comments, made to a local newspaper, came after plans to make venues complete an access statement when applying for a license, describing what facilities they have on-site.
Cllr Jarvie believes that disabled facilities at venues must meet certain standards and follow regulations, rather than the venues simply saying they have access.
The council also approved a decision that the Government’s licensing team should be pressured to specify that disabled facilities meet building standards legislation. But so far the Government does not plan to hold a full consultation on the matter.
Cllr Jarvie told the Ross-shire Journal: “There seems to be no will to consult with the people who will use these facilities and know how to make them better. To say there is limited interested seems wholly bizarre.
“Disabled people have jobs, want to spend money and go out to socialise with friends and family, it’s a completely normal thing to do.”
The disabled access improvement plans were branded as “ineffective” by Councillor Liz MacDonald. She said: “I would like to emphasise how strongly I feel about there not being any consultation on this.
“There are lots of groups and access panels throughout the Highlands who should all have been consulted on this. I think it’s very unfortunate that this is not stronger legislation that will not impact existing premises and will only be for new premises.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government was reported to have said that the views of its own equality unit and disability charities have been taken on board.
He said: “It will shortly become law for those applying for a liquor licence to provide a statement with their application which will containing information about disabled access to the premises.
“We are seeking views on guidance for applicants and an updated licensing form, engaging with relevant stakeholders, such as disability organisations, the trade, and local authorities.”