Working together for change on Byres Road
Glasgow Disability Alliance (GDA) is the largest grassroots disabled people led organisation in Europe, with 4500+ members across Greater Glasgow and growing. Our members are individuals with a range of impairments including mental health difficulties, physical impairments, people with learning difficulties and cognitive impairment, people who have sensory impairments such as visual and hearing or blind and deaf people, those affected by communication impairments, people on the autistic spectrum and people with head injuries.
We also represent organisations such as Glasgow Access Panel, Glasgow Centre for Inclusive Living and smaller disability led local community organisations, all supporting members and service users living in Glasgow.
Through accessible programmes of learning, capacity building, peer support and participation, we bring together disabled people and those with long-term conditions to build their confidence, their connections and support them to make their contributions: to have their voices heard, tackle barriers and work with others towards equality and fulfilling their potential. This additional support is vital as disabled people fare badly in terms of life outcomes in relation to education, employment, social, civic and political participation due to complex barriers such as access to services, poverty and isolation.
GDA has been delighted to be involved and working closely with Glasgow City Council on the proposals for a £9.5m redevelopment of Byres Road over the past two and a half years. This programme will see streetscape improvements made to the public realm with design and construction work being phased over the period 2017 to 2024 all across the city.
Initially, GDA discovered that meetings to engage the public in the process for the redevelopment of Byres Road were planned to take place in an upstairs venue with no lift or accessible toilets. GDA spoke to the organisers who moved the meeting to a more accessible venue.
From this starting point of being excluded, the GDA delegation were able to raise some of the issues of accessibility with the lead consultants who were, to their credit, very receptive to our recommendations.
As a result of GDA’s intervention, the process included specific meetings with disabled people, bringing them together with local businesses and other interest groups, co-facilitated by GDA to ensure disabled people can contribute.
Disabled people took part in “walkabout” sessions to help the planners understand the barriers faced by disabled people and requirements for inclusive design.
GDA briefings helped design teams learn how to better include disabled people in their work – e.g. by providing tactile and braille maps, and bringing along samples of materials rather than simply pictures of the proposals. These changes, along with providing transport, personal assistants and BSL interpreters resulted in over 100 disabled people being involved.
Since then, GDA has been involved and worked closely with Glasgow City Council to co-chair meetings and feed into the consultation process, ensuring that issues of accessibility are at the forefront of the plans. We have become experts in dropped kerbs, different road surfaces, traffic flows and how to read plans. It has been a learning curve for all of us – including the designers who now have a better appreciation of the considerations needed for a wide range of disabled people. We have supported disabled people through providing accessible briefings as well as building skills and confidence for speaking out and working with others towards change. This has been vital to ensure that disabled people and meaningfully involved so that their voices are heard and their views are considered and acted on, as part of the planning process.
Successful example of co-production
While we would like enforceable accessibility standards built into all planning and infrastructure proposals, we are working positively, co-operatively and proactively with Glasgow City Council to ensure that the needs of disabled people are at the forefront of plans for Byres Road. To their credit, they have listened and to date, this has proved to be a successful example of coproduction. The proposals are currently being finalised and will hopefully reflect how we can work together to create policies and environments that are as inclusive as possible for all Glaswegians.