Only 2% of courthouses in Britain meet at least 11 accessibility criteria.
The data shows how the top three most accessible courtrooms are in the south west and 84% of courthouses across the country are not full accessible for wheelchair users.
This comes as only 8% of courthouses offer witness support and/or quiet rooms for people with mental health issues.
The research explained how the past decade has seen the government follow a programme of reforms designed to improve the courthouse process for all users.
However, while accessibility was a factor in these reforms, the closure of courthouses disproportionately affected people with accessibility issues. Campaigners also say that ease of access hasn’t improved significantly enough.
Specialist lawyers Bolt Burdon Kemp sought to demonstrate how these reforms – and the general courthouse landscape in Britain – affect court users with a variety of accessibility issues. The new research assessed 444 courthouses in England, Wales and Scotland on 11 accessibility criteria, namely the availability of:
· Disabled parking
· Accessible toilets
· Hearing loop systems
· Interview rooms
· Baby changing facilities
· Video conference facilities
· Wireless internet access
· Witness support facilities
· And offering wheelchair access and allowing assistant dogs into the building
The main finding of the research was that only 2% of courthouses across Britain were able to meet all 11 of the criteria listed above.
People who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids, or suffer from chronic pain or fatigue, may find it difficult to navigate courthouses.
No courthouses in the East of England or Yorkshire and the Humber offer all three forms of accessibility. It explained how it’s important for the government, as well as local councils, to make a concerted, combined effort to ensure all courthouses are adapted for people with accessibility issues.
The report concluded in explaining how while some courthouses do make the effort to offer facilities to support vulnerable people, and people with caring needs, more must be done to improve what’s on offer across the country.
Those who work within the court system – from the government to courthouse building managers and judges and solicitors – need to make a collective effort to help improve access to justice for all.
Individuals should ensure they are aware of the needs of the vulnerable, as this is the only way they can truly appreciate and understand how to improve.
From making improvements to court buildings, to providing dedicated spaces for vulnerable parties, it’s important to make a commitment to pioneer change.