What is Edinburgh like for disabled people? My best friend Paul is 34 and has Huntingtons Disease. He is now reliant on a wheelchair and is in the latter stages of the illness. Diagnosed in 2000, his symptoms were constant movement and slurred speech and now 13 years later these have become much more severe. Huntingtons is a genetic brain disease (his mother died from it in 1997) and means that the brain and body progressively breakdown over a period of between 10 and 15 years. Before Paul was in a wheelchair we had some problems from people assuming he was drunk, particularly on nights out in bars and clubs. We tended to stick to the same places so bar staff and bouncers knew him but even so he encountered numerous problems sometimes from new bouncers not wanting to let him in or from customers annoyed that he appeared to be drunk. He was even stopped one afternoon by police on his way home from his charity work at a hospital. People only tend to see disabled people if they are in wheelchairs or carrying a white stick. One of the worst incidents happened a few years ago when he was on a night out at his usual bar with friends and a carer. The barman refused to serve him despite knowing about his disability - the bar since apologised .When they left and tried to get a taxi home 2 drove off so they had to hide him around a corner while the carer went to explain to the 3rd taxi driver what the situation was. His crime was to go out without his wheelchair. So how does Edinburgh compare to other places?
In Paul's case actually quite good. Before he was in his wheelchair we took trips to London, Brighton and Gran Canaria. London was just appalling. I was questioned everywhere about him and he was refused entry to a bar despite them being shown his Huntingtons card. Brighton wasn't too bad as when shown his card we were whisked to the front of the queue. In Gran Canaria we had a massive row while trying to get into a club - their attitude was totally appalling, even worse than London. He has a nice story to tell about the police in Edinburgh. He was waiting alone in a queue for a taxi one night when he fell over (one of his symptoms) The police picked him up and when he showed them his card they took him home, helped him to the toilet, put him to bed and called his carer!
The main obvious drawback facing wheelchair users in Edinburgh is the hills but also entry to a lot of older buildings. I believe the situation is that after a complaint is made the building must be adapted for wheelchair users within a certain timescale but things are improving slowly. Lothian Buses are now all wheelchair accessible so that makes a big difference.The local train service is also good with a disabled carriage on most services. The only problem is that not all stations are.
Another problem for wheelchair users in Edinburgh is the cobbles. It's lucky that Paul has a seat belt fitted to his chair or he would have been thrown out on several occasions due to a wheel getting trapped. As his own street is cobbled there is no way for him to avoid this peril. I find it strange that this is the situation outside a block housing disabled people and he doesn't live on the Royal Mile!
So in my experience Edinburgh is not too bad but there is a long way to go - they should take a leaf out of Las Vegas' book!
Paul with his friend Steven going up the Pleasance
For information on places in the city that are disabled friendly visit:
Unfortunately the above website no longer has Edinburgh on it
The best I can come up with is to visit the council web page :
If anyone knows another site please let me know.