Kirsten Hearn’s account

March 27, 2011

Kirsten Hearn

Kirsten Hearn

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 Hearn website

Kirsten’s recent interview as a blind solo traveler on In Touch

8 Responses to “Kirsten Hearn’s account”

  1. linda Burnip Says:

    I am still trying to find out if my friend who is partially-sighted is okay. I wasn’t allowed to wait as arranbged for him in Savoy Street. Myself and a man with Aspergers almost had to force our way into the disabled people’s section after pushing through with loads of wheelchair users a seething mass of people. We didn’t look disabled which I know anyhow but…I had DPAC teeshirt and banner and a placard with pics of people who couldn’t get there

    Then we set off and UNISON members just swamped us all again so we all go split upand lost each other.I have to say I found it all very chaotic.

  2. Hello Kirsten.

    Was a Senior Steward on Saturday.

    From our Stewards Briefing: Savoy Street was the Nominated Disabled ‘Vehicle Drop Off’ Point – AFTER other local roads were closed, as late as possible – Savoy Street would have been kept open up to (if I recall correctly) 12.00pm.

    Before then, you should have been able to drop-off right at the front, up to (again, if I recall correctly) 11.00am. All info was at the Stewards Brief Meeting(s) and in the Stewards Handbook.

    On two occasions on Sat, had to escort two different disabled parties (at their request) actually ACROSS the March to get them to St James by the quickest route. I didn’t ask why they had got caught the wrong side on the March, I just assisted, but clearly there was confusion among other disabled parties.

    As a Senior Steward on 26th, I thought we were given the info on Disabled Access and Inclusion quite clearly. Don’t know why arrangements didn’t meet with your requirements.

    Some arrangements and adjustments regarding Disabled Access clearly had to be made on an ad-hoc basis.

    And yes – the vuvuzelas were bad (for us too).

  3. Doug Paulley Says:

    I agree things didn’t work.

    The Savoy Street meeting place didn’t work. I thought it was an odd choice: it was very steep and also it was nowhere near the marching point at the front. One pink-bibbed steward did her best to get us to the front but it wasn’t pleasant or easy.

    Then it set off 15-20 minutes early at a very fast pace which I was unable to keep up. I had to stop I think 3 times and go slower than the others the rest. Much of the march passed me by.

    My PA commented that it was largely people with electric wheelchairs or in manual wheelchairs with pushers / without mobility impairments who were at the front; if they were setting a pace they were setting it inadvertently too fast for other wheelchair users.

    But I’m glad I went and participated, even so.

  4. jacky barfoot Says:

    this is why i decided not to attend, as due to having meniers disease i was afraid that i would go giddy and get crushed if i was forced to rush about, plus i also have a spinal condition which means i walk slow and cant run as it affects my lower spine and my legs.. my friend didnt attend as he has ptsd and aspergers and panics if he is seperated from people in crowds.
    we did, however support you virtual on line and i watched the march on my pc and on the tv channels

  5. […] Hearn, chair of Inclusion London and a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, blogged after the event that the experience of having to fight her way to the front had been “very frightening” and […]

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