Disabled People Must Not Pay The Price For Clean Air

Hundreds of Disabled people are created and die because of Bristol’s dirty air crisis every year.  We need to clean our air quickly, but the clean air zone (CAZ) needs to centre the needs of the most disadvantaged in our city. The current plans will impact most on Disabled people and people with long term health conditions.  These people are already struggling due to austerity, the pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis. The scheme could mean many Disabled people lose access to a car, be trapped in their homes and face fines that will drive them even deeper into poverty, causing serious harm to their wellbeing and health. 

The 2021 Equality Impact Assessment on the CAZ recognised that are “disproportionately” felt by Disabled people. Despite the council knowing this, insufficient mitigations have been put in place. We understand that some elements of the scheme are controlled by central Government, however, the council could do a lot more to make the scheme accessible.  

Problems include:

Insufficient Funding: There isn’t enough financial support available to be able to get a vehicle that can be used in the zone. People have to work or volunteer for a certain number of hours to be eligible. Yet the Disability Employment Gap means that only 53.2% for Disabled people are in work compared to 81.8% non-Disabled people (Office for National Statistics, 2019). There aren’t exemptions if you can’t work for health reasons. Even if a person does qualify, the funding won’t be enough to re-adapt a car. Auto Chair research has found that a brand-new vehicle with modifications can cost around £40,000 and second-hand is little better. The £2,000 on offer doesn’t begin to cover theses costs. Meanwhile, Motability support is only for those on higher or enhanced mobility benefits, so many can’t get this support.

Lack of Sufficient Public Transport Alternatives: One component of the grant scheme offers credits to individuals to use public transport or Voi. However, 18 bus services will be lost in November and a further 10 community transport services have recently ended. Buses in Bristol are also often inaccessible and unaffordable for Disabled people.

Short Exemption Period: While there is an exemption period for blue badge holders this only lasts until March 2023. You must register your Blue Badge with Bristol City Council for this exemption to work and this exemption is only valid on one car. This registering can only be done by using the internet or by phoning up. If you usually use your Blue Badge in multiple cars, you will have to register multiple cars with Blue Badge in advance of travelling. After this period the only exemption is to become registered Disabled Road tax class, which can only be applied for by those on higher or enhanced benefits. Benefits (such as PIP) get denied often and unfairly, so people can lose their exemption. This puts the burden on the individual to appeal the PIP decision to become registered Disabled Road tax again.

Unaffordable Charges: The daily charge is £9 and people have only 6 days to pay before getting fined £120. This is unaffordable when Disabled people make up over a third of adults in poverty. 6 days to pay is unreasonable for people who also face considerable other barriers and may experience cognitive dysfunction. You can only pay for this by using the internet or by phone and you don’t receive an alert if you have entered the zone and need to pay.

Accessibility of service information: The Clean Air Zone team understands accessible information as meaning non-technical language. We need all forms of the Clean Air Zone information to be fully accessible for Disabled people, including Easy Read and BSL.


It doesn’t have to be this way. We call on the council to make the following changes to make the scheme just:

  1. Increased financial support for those who need to re-adapt vehicles.
  2. Continued exemption for Blue Badge Holders or other exemptions for those who aren’t Disabled Tax class eligible.
  3. Exemptions to include Disabled people or those with long term health conditions who are unemployed or retired.
  4. More accessible options to contact the CAZ team and pay fines.
  5. Automatic notifications for people driving into the CAZ so they don’t unknowingly get faced with fines.
  6. An extended period to pay before being issued a fine.
  7. Disability Equality training for phone line operators so that they can talk appropriately to Disabled people.
  8. All information to have Easy Read versions ready.
  9. A fully accessible Clean Air Zone webpage.  (Accessible here referring to meeting the needs of Disabled people.)
  10. Make accessible and affordable public transport a priority.

The cost of clean air can’t be the independence of Disabled people. But with a little care the scheme could be made fair for all.

Making a complaint

A citizen can make a complaint by:

  1. Filling in a complaints form on the council website https://www.bristol.gov.uk/complaints-and-feedback/other-complaints-and-feedback
  2. Sending an email to complaints.feedback@bristol.gov.uk
  3. Writing to Customer Relations (100 TS), PO Box 3399, Bristol, ​​​​​​​BS1 9NE

The Forum will be taking more action on this issue. More news on this to come soon.

Staying Safe In Dangerous Weather

Our climate steering group have been talking to the Avon Resilience Forum who work with people like the police and fire department to keep people in Bristol safe when dangerous weather and events happen. Climate change is making this kind of weather happen more often and Disabled people are one of the groups most at risk when these things happen so it’s very important we’re ready.

Information to help you stay safe

Sign up with people who provide your water and electricity as a priority service user

Priority service use means that you belong to a group who needs things like energy or water more than others. Doing this will help put you on lists of known Disabled people so that people like fire people know that you will need help first in disasters.

  1. Bristol Water: Priority Services (bristolwater.co.uk)
  2. Wessex Water: Priority Services | Wessex Water
  3. Western Power Distribution: Western Power Distribution – Priority services
  4. British Gas: Priority Services Register – British Gas Uk)

British Red Cross:

These sites help you know how to be ready for when difficult weather hits.

  1. The Emergency Preparedness App: Free emergency apps | British Red Cross
  2. How to make an emergency kit bag: Your emergency kit | British Red Cross

Warnings and how to stay safe:

  1. This is a link for the weather warnings that gives warnings about coming heatwaves, lots of rain and flooding: UK weather warnings – Met Office
  2. How to stay safe during the heatwave: Hot weather and its impacts – Met Office
  3. Information and advice on flooding, thunder, storms and power cuts: WeatherReady – Met Office
  4. For information on power cuts visit: www.powercut105.com 

Your nearest Place of Safety

Places of Safety are where people can go to be safe in dangerous weather. We are working to make sure they can provide for as many accessibility needs as possible.

  1. This is a map to all the council’s places of safety for leaving the house because of diasters: Bristol – Pinpoint local information

National Alert System

Emergency alerts will be sent to mobile phones in the area if there is a danger to life nearby. More information here: Emergency Alerts – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Have your voice heard

We are continue to work with the Avon Resilience Forum and if you would like to be involved please email: cca.bristoldef@gmail.com

Forum success in getting PAs listed as key workers

We’re delighted to announce that, thanks to our work with Bristol City Council, PAs to those Disabled or older people on a Direct Payment – or who’s income means they don’t qualify for financial help with their social care costs – are now officially listed as Key Workers.

This means that you/they can access the extra support that is only available for key workers e.g. getting PAs who think they might have COVID-19 tested, so that you can quickly find out if they can continue to support you or need to take time off.

We are also working to:

a. get more information provided in accessible communications e.g. by post as well as internet, in community languages, in Easy English, in other formats, and produced so it is accessible for everyone, regardless of impairment or literacy;

b. increase Disabled people’s access to essential PPE (personal protective equipment) for when someone has COVID-19;

c. keep you up-to-date on all local COVID-19 information that is useful to Disabled people;

d. stop people being discharged to care homes – at least until they stop being places with a very high risk of catching CVID-19.

If you are experiencing issues, as a Disabled person or elder with and age-related condition[s], that no-one seems to be addressing make sure you let us know. You can do this when you use our telephone support service, our daily, online (Zoom) meet-ups or by emailing bristoldef@gmail.com

The Forum’s first coronavirus success!

We have just read that Bristol City Councilb has responded to our calls for more support to those on Direct Payments.  In particular they have set up a dedicated response for Direct Payment users, to ensure they have enough support and can access Protective Personal Equipment (packs are being made available).

Bristol City Council tells us they have also raised this nationally for advice – something else we asked them to do.

It is good to know that the Council is responding positively when we lay out what our coronavirus-related needs are. 

Let us hope they continue to do so after the government suspends the Care Act!

COVID-19 Caronavirus – Prevent it from spreading!

Corona virus – Let’s stop it taking hold here!
The World Health Organisation is asking that everyone who possibly can does the following:
👏 Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly.
👥 Keep a safe distance from anybody coughing or sneezing (at least 1 metre / 3 feet).
🤦‍♀️ Minimise touching your face.
🗣 Sneeze and cough into your elbow or tissue.
🏠📞 If you have symptoms, stay at home and call for medical care early.

The World Health Organisation is asking that everyone who possibly can does the following:

👏 Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly.

👥 Keep a safe distance from anybody coughing or sneezing (at least 1 metre / 3 feet).

🤦‍♀️ Minimise touching your face.

🗣 Sneeze and cough into your elbow or tissue.

🏠📞 If you have symptoms, stay at home and call for medical care early.

Surviving Winter with a Chronic Illness by Bristol Disability Blogger Niamh Gabrielle

With the cold weather and dark nights officially upon us, it is important for Disabled and Chronically ill people to be as comfortable and safe as possible. Bristol blogger Niamh Gabrielle has written her own personal guide into surviving winter while Disabled and Chronically ill. Click here to read her personal blog post.

Keep up to date with Niamh on the following Socials:

Blog – https://www.niamhgabrielle.co.uk/

Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/niamhgabriellex/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/NiamhGabrielleX

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/niamhgabriellex/

Please note we as an organisation don’t endorse any of the products featured in this post.

Quantum Lock Stystem

Worried about your wheelchair ‘sliding’ when you’re on a bus?

One Disabled person, who has no links to the manufacturer, is excited about a new piece of kit that effectively ‘locks’ your wheelchair in place.  Read on to find out more.

Having been a wheelchair user for 20 years hands I’m always very interested to see new developments in technology which aim to make life easier for Disabled people.  Recently on a trip to Edinburgh I was thrilled to find a new piece of technology called “Quantum” on the tour buses which ensured my wheelchair was held securely in place.

Picture of Helen a wheelchair user trying out the Quantum Lock system for her wheelchair on public transport

To activate Quantum all I had to do was position myself in the wheelchair bay so I was centred against the backrest and press a button.  By pressing the button, I set off the automatic locking sequence.  Two side arms descended, gripping my chair’s wheels and locking me into position.  The process took less than 25 seconds and other passengers were able to board whilst the locking process was taking place.  Whilst the vehicle is in transit, the Quantum arms constantly adjust to gain the best grip so you are held steady for the entire journey.  When you arrive at your stop you simply press the button again to release the arms and off you go.  There is absolutely no need for the driver to do anything.  However, if the wheelchair user cannot press the button themselves the driver can activate it from his driving seat.  It is such a simple system to use and makes for a much safer, comfortable journey.

Quantum is designed by the company Q’Straint and is described as the world’s first fully automatic rear facing wheelchair securement station.  As well as wheelchairs Quantum also secures most mobility scooters and it quick and easy to use.  To find out more visit www.qstraint.com/en-gb/quantum/ or watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RSvCu6D6e8&t=101s .

I’m telling everyone about it because I think it’s great and wish it were on all busses and coaches.  Despite how it might come across, I have no links to the company and get not ‘perks’ or payment for promoting it.


Forum talks to UoB students about impact of Brexit on Disabled people

EU flag with star missing

Recently, The Forum was asked to deliver a session on the potential impact of Brexit (especially a ‘no deal’ one) on Disabled people to University of Bristol students undertaking a masters degree in Disability Studies.  Students were shocked to realise just how many problems Disabled people may face, and amazed that it hasn’t been mentioned in any of the news coverage. 

Some of these potential impacts could affect everyone but would create much more of a difficulty for Disabled people, they include:

  • Shortage of some medicines – medicines which, if you are on them long term, you you need to stop taking gradually;
  • Additional costs of import tax on already expensive disability-related equipment,
  • A shortage of future Personal Assistants and care support workers that is likely to result if the free movement of European workers stops.

If you would like to find out more about how Disabled people could be affected in the case of a Brexit No Deal, Disability Rights UK have some great resources on their website.

How Disabled Am I?

Last week I heard Tanni Grey-Thompson talking about access for Disabled people at airports.  Those airport stairs are steep and hard work for lots of people never mind those who can’t walk.  She commented that ‘lots of people seemed to be using the special assistance service’ now who ‘didn’t really need it’, to effectively queue jump.  I waited for a twitter outrage – there was none.  Does everyone think that people are pretending to be Disabled to queue jump?  I wondered does she just mean that lots of people with hidden impairments, who are failing to wear a placard around their necks, are daring to identify as Disabled people and benefit from the services put there to support them?  I imagined her being refused access to special assistance on the basis that she is an Olympic athlete.  She looks like she has got strong arms and could shimmy up those handrails no problem.

The first time I flew after becoming a Disabled person it never occurred to me to use special assistance as I could actually walk, although I did still use a wheelchair sometimes I knew that once I got to where I was going I could pace myself, rest plenty and not get too tired.  I learnt within about 5 minutes of the departure gate being announced that the airport was too big.  I couldn’t walk that fast, the effort to do so made me cry with exhaustion and to make matters worse when I got to the gate there was a long queue.  I sat on the floor and waited for it to go down.

A year later in Rome, having got to Italy without any problem, the special assistance people looked at me, checked my ticket and refused to help.  They went back to playing pushing each other round in the airport wheelchairs that I wasn’t allowed to sit in, taking pictures of each other and having a laugh.  I tried to insist that I was a Disabled person (they were certainly making me feel it) but they carried on messing about.

Whenever I have been in the special assistance area of an airport the passengers are a mixed bunch, mainly older people with a few like me looking fine, but waiting for help none the less.  I am relieved that I don’t have to describe what is wrong with me to get their help.  It means that I can still go places and pollute the atmosphere with a trip to Poland every year like anyone else!  

I think that Mrs Grey-Thompson should think about what she is saying.  She went on in the interview to talk about the needs of wheelchair users as if ‘Disabled people’ and ‘wheelchair users’ are one and the same.  I always had a big question mark about Disabled Olympians as role models for the rest of us.  The way impairments are characterized in the different ability classes is highly offensive to me.  I think she would grade anyone like me in the ‘not Disabled’ class.  Bah.  I just won’t ask a fit looking wheelchair user for help either and I am not going back to Rome airport ever again.


Bristol Disability Equality Forum comment:

The author of this article raises an important issue regarding the difficulties some people with hidden impairments can experience – and her own experience, described here, is clear evidence of that. 

We also know she is far from alone – many of the members of our Hidden Impairments’ Group have experienced discrimination, by both Disabled and not-yet Disabled people, because their impairment[s] is not visible.

As she says, she doesn’t know whether Tanni Grey-Thompson’s views were based on who “looked disabled” or upon more reliable data.  However, there is no doubt that Disabled people who have ‘invisible’ impairments are the majority – yet most of the population still doesn’t appreciate this fact.

So, if you are due to fly, will need assistance and don’t want to have a similar experience to the one described here, make sure you book the assistance you need in advance. 

Autism Acceptance Week Rather Than Simply Awareness: our need to be heard

What is dubbed autism awareness week will commence between the 26th of March and the 2nd of April, with April itself credited as an autism awareness month. Organisations such as the National Autistic Society are marking the occasion. Yet, while we take the time to celebrate our identity, we autistics will need to consider the challenges we face as a community.

We will also need to deal with the problems we face in education and employment. A 2016 study by the National Autistic Society stated that only 16% of autistics were in employment in the United Kingdom. Access to welfare also poses its own challenge as benefits such as PIP (the Personal Independence Payment), as those with hidden disabilities face a particular barrier in applying for their welfare.

These barriers are not due to our autism, but rather due to a failure by neurotypicals to accept our access needs and due to ableist discrimination. We face stigma by that which instead of trying to understand us would demonise us, as too noted with the anti-vaccination’s movement rhetoric which sets a preference to have dead children rather than healthy living autistic children. Our fellow autistics in America are all too familiar with the hate group that calls itself Autism Speaks, which uses the language of ‘autism awareness’ to promote a discriminative image of autistics, comparing us to cancer. They portray autistic adults and children not as humans but as burdens on society. In the United Kingdom there have been attempts to use “treatments” such as MME (essentially bleach) that are dangerous to autistic folks. There are also mistreatments among services; the National Autism Society has itself proved to be a liability, with the abuse found at the care home they ran in Somerset. Our human rights, as the United Nations notes, have been violated. We also face failures in workplaces and other spaces to adjust to our needs, instead focusing on having us ‘act normal’ rather than accept who we are.

It is critical that the voices of autistic activists are raised against this tide of discrimination against us.

This can be a time of reclaiming. Autism rights advocacy has moved to take April as autism acceptance month. We must ensure that anything about us is not just with us, but by us. To quote the motto of the Disabled People’s Movement, among which is the American based Autistic Self Advocacy Network: “nothing about us without us!” Let us henceforth champion a move away from mere awareness, ‘the about us without us,’ towards acceptance; the of us, by us.  This should be a time for autistics by autistics, not about autistics by allistics AKA non-autistics. We need to raise against our marginalisation, for we must and will stand for our rights.

To my fellow autistics: Let us come together in showing our discontent towards that which marginalises us and campaign for the rights of we and our fellow disabled folks.

To the neutrotypicals reading this: this is our time to speak, not simply to be spoken of. If you wish to ally with us, then we will welcome you as long you do not come in as a “saviour” to speak for us for then you would be hindering us. Autistic people can speak for themselves and we will want you to listen to us.

As a consideration, I would suggest to both my fellow autistics and our allies to read Kit Albrecht’s guide to understand how we move towards a campaign of acceptance.

Together we can stand with our fellow Disabled people for our rights and the rights of all. Disability rights champions a prideful defiance against a society that chooses to marginalise disabled folk at their peril; autistics have their part to play in this boldness.

By George Albert Ayres