Navigating South Leeds with mobility aids

If you are an active social media user and are members of any South Leeds groups, you will have seen discussions about how irritating road works can be and the inconvenience is infuriating.

Browsing down my timeline I then spotted a post about how a path was resurfaced in another area and how much easier it was for the poster, who is blind, to navigate and highlighted how important a smooth path was for them. This then re-triggered something I used to complain about on my own estate, as a user of crutches uneven paths are difficult to navigate.

I asked the question on the same social media sites and there were many responses from people with a variety of disabilities who found, not just roadworks blocking paths difficult, but other obstacles you might not necessarily notice if you don’t need to use a walking aid.

Issues with drop kerbs, unrepaired paths, cars parked causing obstructions, crossing timings at traffic lights and bins been left on paths on collection days were among the list of what is making it difficult for disabled people to manoeuvre around South Leeds. In some cases these obstacles damaged their aids putting them at risk of not being able to go out at all.

Alison a Beeston resident commented:

“I have mobility issues, most of the drop kerbs don’t line up opposite each other meaning you have to go out of your way on the road on a scooter!”

The roadworks, although temporary, caused issues for a long period of time described as “horrendous” and not been thought out with disability and mobility issues in mind.

Gail another resident commented:

“I take my husband out in Beeston in his electric chair. The paths and drop curbs are appalling, we can’t get through the metal barrier at the park as it’s too small and bins and cars on pavements, it must be like it everywhere, you don’t realise until you have a disability”

Another resident who has poor sight told me:

“Navigating the paths can be hazardous. I have very little downward peripheral vision and if I’m looking out for potholes and uneven surfaces, I’m unable to look where I am going!”

This rang true for me and other disabled residents so myself and Cllr Andrew Scopes went on a disability focused walkabout, but Cllr Scopes had to use a mobility scooter and could not get up from it.

This may seem slightly tokenistic, but with local resident Mark Wilson who himself is also a disability campaigner, we had three different mobility aids trying to navigate the same route. Myself on crutches, Cllr Scopes on the scooter and Mark in his electric wheelchair.

What we all learned together is that different aids, create different challenges and some were common among all three. Noticeably our walk matched the comments on the Facebook post accurately as I knew they would, and Cllr Scopes fully experienced the issues first-hand.

It is very different telling someone that an overgrown bush is going hit you in the eye to them being hit in the eye by it.
Cllr Scopes posted:

“I had one frightening experience where the mobility scooter didn’t get up a kerb onto the central island and I had to back up and try again, it really highlighted the need to get this stuff right”

As there is such an importance to make sure these issues continue to be heard, I plan on making sure of that by replicating this walk with Cllr Wray on his patch and look to leave an impression as we did on Cllr Scopes who now has a new view of how it is to move around South Leeds when you need to rely on mobility aids –

“Ensuring residents can move around the South Leeds, with mobility challenges, is really important for our community” he said. “Having spent a couple of hours on a mobility scooter (thanks to Cottingley’s Janette), I have a new appreciation of how much more needs to be done to ensure this is the case for everyone.

“The Council needs to do more to ensure drop kerbs drop all the way to the road, road users need to be considerate when parking to ensure pavements are not blocked and residents need to ensure their hedges do not grow out and block pavements. Hopefully we can work together to bring improvements here in South Leeds”

South Leeds Life has committed to amplify disabled voices in our communities and encourages residents to send in their stories and letters about the good, the bad and the indifferent of how it is from our side. Please contact Christine by email at:


This post was written by Christine Smart

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