Kirsten Hearn’s account
March 27, 2011
I’m giving some feedback which I’d really like you to take forward to any review you might do. I will be raising these issues also with the police in my capacity as a member of the MPA(Metropolitan Police Authority).
Unfortunately, the TUC access arrangements for disabled people seemed to go wrong somewhere.
I turned up at Savoy Street at 11:15 am to find it empty. I went down to the march on the Embankment, thinking you must all be gathered there. I was met by a seething mass of humanity that it was darn near impossible to get through.
When I finally found a steward who had even heard of a disabled people’s safe space and knew where it might be, they said the accessible bit of the march was at the front. I then had to fight my way through but before I got to the front, the march started off and I had to run. The whole experience was very frightening and I was in a terrible state by the time I got to the DP space.
Had I known that the assembly point for the march was at the front, I would have gone straight there. It is my long experience of working with other March organizers that the safest place for disabled people to be is at the front of the march, behind dignatries. This is so we can set the pace and be easy to find. The pace yesterday was going at a fair lick and I had to run!
Wearing my police authority hat, I had the opportunity to review the march plans in advance, including what ops disabled people had to be part of it. Ruth Bashall tells me that not only did the assembly point not work at Savoy Street for her either, but that the St James’s Street marching joining point for older and disabled people did not work either. She could find no one who wanted to join the march and no way of getting on at that point. She finally joined me just before we moved into Hyde Park.
I wonder who made the decision to move the assembly point? It would be good to talk about this some time and to find a way of feeding back. Was it the police who suggested the various assembly points and entry points? If so, I can deal with them!
I feel that I was put in danger yesterday. I was nearly crushed. I was completely deafened by the vuvuzelas (not the organizers fault) and I was absolutely terrified that I would be trampled , lose my p.a. and be alone in the crowd. I then had to hurry at a speed which was difficult for me to catch up with the front of the march, all the time fearing that I would fall. I was in such a state by the time I got to the front that it completely ruined the day for me.
Kirsten’s recent interview as a blind solo traveler on In Touch