Original article from Kent Live
Barry Stickings MBE, 60, whose son Joe is blind, started a petition to the council to repair the lifts after spotting a sign saying they were permanently closed on April 1.
The lifts, which have fallen into disrepair, provide the disabled, elderly and parents with small children with access to the beach and seafront shops.
Barry told KentLive: “Everybody who has a disability has the same rights as any other person so therefore by blocking this access they’re taking away this right.”
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Barry contacted former Thanet District Council leader Rick Everitt who had the sign removed and ensured him that the lifts would be re-opened for the summer season, but residents are not satisfied with this solution.
Barry, of St. Peters, said: “People come here all year, they don’t stop because the sun goes in.
“It has to be a permanent feature that’s open all year round.”
Thanet District Council have put alternative access measures in place including access from Louisa Bay and matting to lengthen the boardwalk from Harbour Street to accommodate wheelchairs.
But Barry raised concerns that Louisa Bay is very steep and Harbour Street is narrow, both of which pose problems for disabled residents.
As a former chairman for the charity MACS, who support people like his son who were born without eyes, Barry is aware of how funding might pose an issue.
He said: “We all know money’s difficult, we appreciate that, but sometimes services go way above the cost factor.”
'Assessed for repairs'
Barry is concerned that more problems will arise if the lifts are not fixed by the summer season, with the rise in staycations this year due to COVID restrictions on travelling abroad.
Helen Whitehead, who is standing in as Thanet District Council leader after the resignation of Rick Everitt, said: “Cabinet have always argued that the lifts need to be opened; myself especially, as I am aware from personal experience just how important access is.
“Both lifts are currently being assessed for repairs and will be opened as soon as those are completed.
“But the long-term issue is, and always has been, the reliability of the lifts, as they need replacing, and are not Equality Act compliant in terms of access and size.
“So long-term we are getting quotes for replacement of the lifts, to ensure their reliability; but to say this is likely to be expensive is an understatement.”
Barry has appealed to celebrities for help spreading the word about the campaign, with actress Brenda Blethyn and media personality Gregg Wallace both showing their support on Twitter.