As a 95-year-old with a life dedicated to campaigning for disability rights – after contracting Polio myself serving my country during WWII – it was extremely upsetting when I was recently asked to leave Kew Gardens’ Gift Shop “as mobility scooters are not allowed”. My dignity was further tarnished when staff refused to ask me to leave directly and instead asked my wife, Christine, as though I were a child or not mentally capable of understanding requests. Indeed, I later found on their website that they refused mobility scooter users to enter their cafes, restaurants, and even their toilets. I believe this is a violation, not only disabled rights, but of basic human rights, and consequently Kew Gardens should be held to account for these rules.
It was shocking to find that two-thirds of the top 100 visitor attractions were not fully wheelchair-friendly and that a mere thirteen per cent of all staff working at these attractions have been trained in disability awareness. It is welcome that Kew have now retrained their staff and changed their website, but how long would it have taken had they not encountered a campaigner like me. After years of attempting to increase awareness of disability rights, it still shocks me that people with disabilities are treated in this manner and not catered for. Visits to Kensington Palace and V&A Museum were a stark contrast to Kew, with staff courteous to my needs. There should be no excuse for Kew Gardens not to supply the same standard level of service.
Joseph Fisher MBE
Patron, The British Polio Fellowship
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