Developers champion disability-friendly construction sites

Signs surrounding construction Pic: Lois Borny

Hackney developers are working to increase accessibility for disabled people in areas surrounding construction sites.

The growing demand for infrastructure in London has inevitably led to an increase in construction sites, meaning many pedestrian routes are closed or obstructed.

TfL’s ‘Healthy Streets Approach‘ initiative organises ‘walk arounds’ across London, allowing construction site workers and developers to hear from people with disabilities about the dangers they would face navigating obstructions caused by construction sites.

As part of ongoing investigations, Olympic Park developers in Hackney were joined by Isabelle Clement, director of Wheels for Wellbeing, and Natalie Doig, member of the Independent Disability Advisory Group, to hear about their concerns.

Clement told Eastlondonlines that the aim of the walks are “to give the site managers and various people from each construction site a better understanding of what it is like to be disabled.  It is not just about putting a few ramps down.”

One of Clement’s biggest concerns was the danger caused by excessively steep ramps put in place to help wheelchair users cross the road where pavements have been closed. She said: “You need momentum to get up. You can be in a really dangerous situation and not be able to get out of the road, potentially tipping backwards or even rolling back into the traffic.”

Investigation by Wheels for Wellbeing and the Independent Disability Advisory Group also found that uneven pavements would force wheelchair users to venture into the road, either because the pavement was too hazardous or because crossing the uneven ground would require too much energy. The pavements were also cluttered with excessive signage which is difficult for wheelchair users to navigate.

Hackney building site. Pic: David Holt

Doig, who is visually impaired, said that the signs also posed a hazard because they are difficult to see. The backs of the signs used on most construction sites are grey, and so it can be difficult for visually impaired people to distinguish between the sign and the pavement.

Clement seemed happy with the response from those involved. She said: “Developers looked like they were going to work together to find solutions, and on the whole the construction workers were taking everything on board.”

A Hackney Council spokesperson said: “It’s really important that we make sure that roads and pavements are still accessible to people, particularly those with impairments, when work takes place, and developers must demonstrate to us that they’re doing this. One of the most effective ways we can check is by using walkabouts.”  

They added that they are “looking to create temporary pavements, reduce changes in levels of the pavement, improve signage, in particular for pedestrians, and make sure temporary structures do not make it harder for people to get around.”

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