Village hall in row over anti-scooter policy

Mrs Jean Sleath of Heckington, pictured on her mobility scooter. EMN-170124-104044001
Mrs Jean Sleath of Heckington, pictured on her mobility scooter. EMN-170124-104044001

A woman who has difficulties walking feels she is being excluded from her village luncheon club due to a policy against mobility scooters.

Jean Sleath, 89, has lived in Wellington Close, Heckington, for five years and for much of that time has valued visiting the volunteer-run club at the village hall on a Thursday.

She said: “It is very helpful and the only time I go out because it is just up the road and I know it will be warm.

“I used to be able to park my mobility scooter and walk into the building and someone would help me. Now I stay sat in the scooter as getting up and down is a problem for me.”

But Mrs Sleath has now been told her scooter is not welcome as it could cause problems with evacuating the hall in the event of a fire - blocking the exit ramp at the side door while she manoeuvres out.

Mrs Sleath said: “This is difficult to understand as there are three or four exits from the hall, one of which leads to the ramp which is used by scooters and could not by any stretch of the imagination be used by pedestrians, especially semi-disabled ones and stick users who comprise most of the luncheon club.”

She was shocked to find a notice has been posted beside the ramp saying it is only for electric or push along wheelchairs.

She said she has no problem at the village Methodist church when she attends, which has fewer exits.

At home she relies on a walking frame.

When the Standard contacted the club, we were referred to the village hall.

Caretaker Stephen Linford dealt with the granting of the latest licences for fire and health and safety.

He said they had spent considerable time and money on a ramp and clearing space at the front of the building for scooters to park and people walk up the ramp or up the steps.

He said: “We do not allow scooters in the building because physically it is very difficult to get them in.

“It is very difficult for scooters to make the turn at the entrance. It is not a big village hall and from a fire risk point of view the escape door for the ramp is right opposite the kitchen which is probably the main possibility of fire.”

He said the fire service calculated the amount of people who can escape in a certain time, factoring in disabled users.

He said a mobility scooter trying to turn could block the ramp and there were no other suitable exits for scooters as it is an old building. He also said there was no room to park scooters inside, whereas wheelchairs take up less space and can be more manoeuvrable.

Mr Linford said it appears ‘this one lady has caused a fuss’.

He said: “She does feel like we are ganging up on her because of her disability but it is not the case. But it is not a day care centre, it is a luncheon club run by volunteers. It is my job as caretaker and day manager to make sure people are able to get out.

“We are certainly not anti-disabled people.”

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