“I’m 32-years-old and want to be independent and able to go out on my own.” These are the words of a disabled mum who says she is blocked from going down a Swansea street on her mobility scooter on a weekly basis.
Sophie Earl-Park from Gorseinon said she was unable to pop out for fresh air on her own because of cars parked on pavements in Loughor Road.
She said she often had to rely on family members or strangers to help her navigate her way down the street safely, or she had to drive up the road and risk her life.
Because of her conditions, congenital hip dysplasia and charcot-marie-tooth disease (classed as muscular dystrophy) it is too difficult for Mrs Earl-Park to get out of her scooter to ask car owners to move from the pavement herself.
“My husband Andrew has to knock the doors of the vehicle owners and ask them to move their cars so I can get through on the pavement safely,” she said.
“I can’t go down that road on my own because I would have to get up off a mobility scooter and go and knock on their doors which is something I’m physically not able to do.
“I don’t want to be chaperoned by someone all the time I want my own freedom as well.”
The mum-of-two said she took that route a few times a week as it was a short distance from her home and led to the cycle route linking Gorseinon and Gowerton.
She said the cycle route was a dream because it was perfectly flat for her to travel along in her scooter, but the issue in Loughor Road made her not want to leave her house in the mornings.
“Going down that road is an absolute nightmare, and not just for disabled people – for people with prams too,” she said.
“The home owners don’t have parking bays, which is completely fair enough – I totally understand – but parking on the pavement means access is completely blocked for people like me.”
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Mrs Earl-Park said that, often, the issue was that people parked too closely to the houses, but sometimes vehicles were parked directly across the pavement.
She said: “On our way down the road on our way to the cycle track the other day there were vans parked directly across the pavement from one end of the pavement to the other. My husband had to knock the doors and ask them to move. It happens on a weekly basis. I go out and about for fresh air and it’s near impossible for me to get past because cars are parked right up against the houses.
“On Monday (February 22) I was out and two cars were parked abreast on the pavement. The homeowner must have two cars and parked them side by side. It’s not a car park, it’s a public footpath.”
She said that when cars did prevent her from getting past, it was dangerous for her to cross the road because she wasn’t very visible to drivers, being lower down than someone who might be walking upright.
Mrs Earl-Park said: “At the bottom of the road there is a dropped kerb, but on busy days this is totally parked over. Cars are always parked next to it which means oncoming traffic can’t see me. Unlike someone who’s able to walk and stand, I’m not five, six foot tall, I’m right down low. Oncoming traffic can’t see me and I can’t see oncoming traffic and it’s a danger. Yesterday a stranger stood on the other side of the road to help us across the road because we couldn’t see if it was safe to cross or not.”
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Mrs Earl-Park said that because of her disability it took a lot of effort to get ready to leave her house. The accessibility problems she faces make her feel so “upset and frustrated” that she is sometimes put off the idea of going out at all.
She said: “When you have a muscle wasting disease, it’s not a case of ‘let’s just get up and go out’, it can take hours to get up and dressed and get the scooter ready for going out – it’s quite a process. So then to be faced with that as soon as you go out, it just puts me off wanting to leave my home. I live locally and I’m not allowed to travel in a car for exercise. This is my place where I get to go and have some fresh air under the government restrictions. And people are making it completely unaccessible for me all the time.
“If I can’t pass there’s nothing I can do other than reverse all the way back down, or even if I manage to cross the road around the bunched up cars, there isn’t another crossing point for me on the other side of the road, which means I have to go up the main road the wrong way towards oncoming traffic – putting my life at risk.”
Mrs Earl-Park said she just wished more people would consider disabled people and the difficulties they could face while out and about.
She said: “There need to be better dropped kerbs down that road that actually have disabled people in mind. I also think the pavement should be made narrower with parking bays put in place so people can park along that road without blocking access.
“For me, it’s not a choice, I have to go out on a mobility scooter.”
-- to www.walesonline.co.uk