Pavement cafes are making it difficult for disabled residents and visitors to go into York city centre.
A partially-sighted resident said it is now too dangerous for her to walk down some streets because tables and chairs from pavement cafes almost meet in the middle of the road and are not enclosed by a barrier.
And while temporary toilets have been installed for visitors – the council was not able to hire an accessible toilet because there is a shortage.
Ninety-nine pavement cafe licences have been issued in York and the Government has announced that the permissions will be extended until September 2022.
Iain Mitchell told a City of York Council meeting: “For blind and partially-sighted people and for people with other disabilities, being able to navigate your way around additional seating can be a problem.”
He said customers often move tables and chairs outside the designated pavement cafe area, causing a risk to anyone who is partially-sighted, using a wheelchair or who has mobility issues.
Inaccessible to wheelchairs
Anna Baldwin told councillors she is severely visually impaired. Speaking on behalf of York Disability Rights Forum she said: “There are places where the two sides of the road almost meet in the middle with pavement cafe furniture.
“I don’t see how a disabled person in a wheelchair can get down, let alone somebody with a guide dog or me with my long cane.
“It’s very nice that people are eating outside and I don’t think this will stop but it does mean that there should be very clear implementation of the cafe furniture guidelines and licensing requirements for barriers.”
She asked for at least two metres clear for people to walk down the road, adding that the current situation is “really quite dangerous for blind and disabled people.”
Council officers said they would raise the issues with the highways team, but that they had been following the government’s inclusive mobility guidelines and visiting businesses.
Matt Boxall from the council said: “Officers did some visits around the pavement cafes and they were looking at issues like the tap rails to make sure that they are in place.
“They were advising businesses where they weren’t in place that they should be there and they were checking to make sure that the chairs and tables were within the permitted boundaries, that should give sufficient space to enable wheelchairs and pushchairs to pass through.
“Obviously these things do get moved unfortunately from time to time, which was the very point of them going around to do their visits to check that all was in order and so it is something that I know they’re aware of.”
York BID has also installed accessible benches in the outdoor seating area in College Green to make it easier for wheelchair users to use the temporary picnic benches.