Inclusion Southmead have decided to hold an ‘Access For All Day’ outside McColl’s Arnside on Saturday 21st April, from 11am to 1pm. This is to highlight the on-going battle over the lack of access for Disabled and older people to McColl’s Convenience Store and Post Office in Arnside.
Inclusion Southmead will also be asking people to sign a petition to be sent to McColl’s Retail Group plc, and raise awareness of accessibility issues in Bristol.
- The McColls Arnside branch is central to Southmead, and since the closure of Southmead House (and all bar one of the Council’s Service Points due to BCC cuts) many residents now have no choice but to pay bills and rent at the Post Office. This presents a particular barrier to Disabled and older residents who are less likely to be able to access transport or the internet.
- The Arnside branch has double doors, but these have been locked for a number of years. (We have heard that this is to ‘prevent shoplifting’, although other nearby shops have double automatic doors etc.)
- The only way to get into the shop and Post Office is through a single heavy door, which has a step, preventing access to wheelchair users, scooter users and people with restricted mobility. There are also displays and shelving blocking access in the shop.
- Disabled and older people have often been left outside, (whatever the weather) having been forced by the lack of access to rely on family or friends to do their shopping, pay their rent or do their Post Office banking for them.
Residents do not think this is acceptable: Everyone has a right to equal access and to make their own choices, no one should be excluded from such an important service in our community.
Local staff working at the Arnside branch have been very supportive.
However communication with McColl’s head-office has been less so, contrary to their media messages of being ‘community champions’ and ‘operating responsibly’
- Inclusion Southmead have written twice to McColl’s Head office, asking for something to be done. After several months we were told that McColl’s had completed a site survey, and then put an ‘ask for assistance’ sign, along with a bell outside of the shop.
- However, this is not a solution and has had made some people feel even more frustrated and excluded. Even if you can see or read the sign, the bell is too high for wheelchair users and other Disabled people to reach.
- McColl’s also said that they cannot do anything in the ‘immediate future’ due to ‘planning consent’. However McColl’s have a national programme of refurbishments, including at the Pen Park, branch Southmead. This and other branches across Bristol are not accessible.
- McColl’s have conducted an ‘acquisition drive’, rapidly expanding to 1650 stores across the UK. The majority of local Post Offices are sited in McColl’s
- The Equality Act 2010 is very clear on the duty on businesses to consider in advance what Disabled people need to use their services, and to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to enable access.
- However, three quarters of Disabled people have felt excluded or badly treated and so have left a shop or business.
- Inclusion Southmead urge McColl’s Retail Group plc. to listen to their customers and to residents. We are working with Disabled people with expertise in access; it is neither expensive or difficult to make these changes… Access For All!
About Inclusion Southmead
Inclusion Southmead is project funded by Southmead Fourteen (Quartet.) They are working with Bristol Disability Equality Forum and The Care Forum to support local residents to increase inclusion and equality in Southmead. The project also seeks to reduce isolation, create opportunities and to address the barriers faced by Disabled residents in accessing activities, businesses, public spaces and services.
The group was formed as an outcome of resident led research conducted as part of the Southmead Fourteen Community Plan and Southmead Disability Research Project.