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Disabled Shopper Wins Fight Over Pavement Cafes

February 24, 2023

A disabled woman has won a legal battle with City of York Council after she accused the authority of breaking equalities law.

Flick Williams, a visually-impaired wheelchair user, found herself blocked from using dropped kerbs on a footpath while out shopping in York city centre in May last year.

On leaving a shop, she said furniture from a cafe had been put out while she was inside, covering the dropped kerbs on either side.

York City Council admitted it “got it wrong” about access for those with limited mobility.

The disability rights campaigner submitted a claim to York County Court for disability discrimination, with the council reaching an out-of-court settlement.

The council allowed York businesses to set up pavement cafes more easily under the government’s emergency Covid legislation in 2020.

But Ms Williams and others consistently argued that the way it was implemented in York broke equalities law, as many cafes did not leave the necessary 1.5m (4.9ft) width clear on the footpath to allow pedestrians to pass unimpeded.

Describing the incident, Ms Williams said: “This was an extremely distressing experience that put me into conflict with the staff of the business with the furniture out on the pavement,” the Local Democracy Reporting Service reported.

“They were busy justifying that they had a licence from the council, regardless of the fact that it had effectively prevented me from leaving.”

She said she had tried “repeatedly” to speak to the council but they defended their position on cafe licensing, with her believing “they were licensing unlawfully”.

A council spokesperson said it was “sorry” any individual had experienced difficulties with access issues.

“We recognise that we got it wrong, and are grateful that issues were brought to our attention.

“In working to meet our ambitions to deliver a more accessible city for all, we will continue to listen and learn from the lived experiences of disabled people.”

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