A World War Two veteran has received an apology from the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew after he was asked to leave the gift shop because he was using a mobility scooter.
Joe Fisher MBE, aged 95, a life-long campaigner for polio victims after contracting it during the campaign in Burma, said he was furious to be asked to leave by a member of staff at Kew Gardens. Mr Fisher was shocked to learn that mobility scooter riders were not allowed on the grass at the gardens, a UNESCO world heritage site, which left him feeling like “a dog that ought to be on a leash.” They were also barred from the cafe and even the toilets, which prompted Mr Fisher to ask whether he was intended to “pee behind a bush.”
He has now received a letter of apology from Kew Gardens which states a review has been launched of its disability access policy and that staff have been sent for re-training.
Mr Fisher, of Gosforth, Newcastle, was visiting Kew Gardens with his wife Christine and hired the mobility scooter at Kew to help him see as much of the site as possible.
He explained: “My wife and I separated in the shop and I was having a good look around before I started making my way towards the exit. A lady came over and addressed my wife rather than me, saying “would you mind asking your husband to leave, he is not allowed in here on the mobility scooter. We were both incredulous, not least because I hired the mobility scooter at Kew. My wife, quite rightly said “ask him yourself, he isn’t stupid.”
Joe continued: “So she then explained it to me and said, “it’s in the rules,” which I queried, assuming she’d got it completely wrong. “But later when I looked on the website I discovered it actually was in the rules. Mobility scooters weren’t allowed in the cafe, the toilets or even on the grass. It left me feeling as though I was a dog that ought to be kept on a leash and allowed only to have a pee behind a bush.”
He added: “I have spent my entire life campaigning for Polio victims on matters just such as these and frankly I was astonished that somewhere like Kew could have got it so badly wrong. This is not some tu’penny ha’penny tourist attraction, it’s internationally renowned and world famous. Surely someone should have queried this extraordinary policy at some point before now? We are still in a situation where 63% of the nation’s top attractions do not have proper, full wheelchair access and that just isn’t good enough.”
Joe has received a letter of apology from Kew stating it is reviewing its access policy. The letter also states: “We are sincerely sorry that the person who spoke to you did so in an impolite manner.”
The Kew Gardens website has now been altered to say that the only places not accessible to mobility scooters are the glasshouses, galleries, Kew Palace, the Royal Kitchens or the Treetop Walkway.
A Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew spokesperson, commented: “Everyone is welcome at Kew, and we take pride in our customer service. We have written (by post) a letter to Mr Fisher expressing our sincerest regret that he had a disappointing experience during his recent visit to Kew Gardens. We have worked hard to make sure that Kew Gardens is accessible to people with disabilities and as such, his experience was not typical of our service or reflective of our policies. “We welcome mobility scooters into the shops and cafes at Kew, but there are a few other areas where for practical reasons they are unable to go e.g the glasshouses and galleries, and the Treetop Walkway.
The statement continued: “We do, however, offer visitors an opportunity to visit these attractions in a regular wheelchair instead. We deeply regret that Mr Fisher was misinformed about the shop policy, and have reiterated our disability policies with all members of staff and volunteers following this. We have also reviewed the information on our website following Mr Fisher’s complaint, and have corrected the access information to reflect our policy across the Gardens.”
Mr Fisher, who received his MBE for services to charity and the British Polio Fellowship, has worked tirelessly to change perceptions of disabled people in the North East, masterminding a Polio hostel and training centre in Jesmond, Newcastle, in 1954.
A mobility scooter rally organised by a pensioner from Morecambe raised money for a cancer charity.
Pensioner Glenys Hodgson, 81, of Rydal Court in Morecambe, who also took part in the mobility scooter rally, organised it in aid of Leukaemia Research as she lost her daughter to leukaemia at the age of 33.
Glenys initiated and organised the mobility scooter rally, which went from the Battery in Morecambe to Happy Mount Park, not only to raise money for a good cause, but to bring together people on mobility scooters as a way of meeting new friends.
David Morris, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, cut the ribbon at the very start of the mobility scooter rally. Glenys commented: “It went ok, especially for the first time. It was a learning experience. There were five mobility scooters including myself, and some people in wheelchairs joined us at the Eric Morecambe statue who then went down the promenade with us”
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Jeremy Kyle fans were entertained after the TV presenter stole a studio guest’s mobility scooter during a debate and took it for a spin around the TV studio.
Seemingly exasperated at an argument breaking out over a “sleazy” 70-year-old who was “trying to seduce” another man’s wife, Jeremy Kyle started fiddling with the mobility scooter which was to the side of the stage. While two guests rowed between themselves, Jeremy Kyle alighted the mobility scooter and started playing with the controls and drove on an excursion around the studio corridors.
The mobility scooter belonged to John, 70, (left) who was alleged to have been trying to seduce Tony’s (right), 51, wife. Accidentally putting the mobility scooter in reverse, Jeremy Kyle was driven backwards at first, before working out how to use the controls.
Jeremy Kyle then sat down on the mobility scooter and started flying around the studio and down the hallways backstage, completely ignoring the two men’s dispute. Unperturbed by Jeremy Kyle’s actions, the two men carried on with their bickering as if nothing was happening with the playful host.
Fans soon took to Twitter, calling it the best thing they’d watched on daytime TV. One said: “Jeremy Kyle riding around the studio on a guest’s mobility scooter whilst they argue is the best thing I’ve seen all week.” Another commented: “He’ll be in the next fast and furious film with that mobility scooter #jeremykyle.”
A mobility scooter driver has caused £3,500 worth of damage to an amusement arcade after crashing into a machine.
The woman was caught on CCTV at the Happidrome Arcade, in Marine Parade, Southend, causing the damage and then riding off laughing. It is unclear if the incident was intentional.
Owner of the arcade, Martin Richardson, is calling on residents to help identify the woman, who had a child and a dog with her at the time. He has reported the incident, which happened four weeks ago, to the police. Mr Richardson decided to release the images after the woman have a false address He is pursuing charges for criminal damage. Mr Richardson said: “What happened was along came this woman on a mobility scooter.
Martin Richardson explained: “The mobility scooter was massive. She crashed into the side of one of the machines. She drove forwards and back and seemed to think it was funny.”
Staff approached the mobility scooter driver and informed her she had caused a lot of damage to the machine so they would need to take contact details for her. However, when the police visited the address, they discovered she had given false details.
Mr Richardson continued: “It is the audacity of her to give false details. She has also caused some other poor woman distress when they had the police knocking on the door accusing them of doing this. This isn’t a witch hunt – I don’t want anyone finding her and knocking over her scooter. I just want to identify her.”
He added: “The poor police have a lot to deal with, so we want to help them out and carry out our own investigation. We want to bring charges for criminal damage.”
He added that the machine was an old model and so couldn’t be repaired, but a replacement would be about £3,500. Buying the modern equivalent would cost about £5,000.
It is not a legal requirement for mobility scooters to have insurance unless they are driven on the road. Mr Richardson said they were welcome in the arcade, as long as users were careful of children using the venue.
Newbury Town Council is set to launch a clampdown on mobility scooter drivers who speed in the town centre.
The council has received complaints about the number of mobility scooters speeding around pedestrians in the busy shopping streets of Newbury, prompting councillors to approve an awareness campaign.
The Share the Space campaign, which will also target cyclists, aims to highlight the dangers of driving mobility scooters too quickly and urges users to select the tortoise setting on their mobility scooter.
Proposals to go ahead with the campaign, which will include the printing and delivering of 5,000 campaign leaflets, have been approved by Newbury Town Council’s planning and highways department. The leaflets state: “Newbury town offers an easy, friendly and accessible welcome to people using mobility equipment and the town’s businesses value their custom. We do receive complaints that some users drive their scooters too quickly in and amongst pedestrians in the town. If you are easily overtaking pedestrians you are going too fast.”
The leaflets go on to ask users not to “dart out of shop doorways, alleyways and lanes” and to keep their speed controller to the low or tortoise setting.
Working group chairwoman, Jo Day, explained: “Occasionally mobility scooters do go too fast. I’ve nearly been mowed down by one, so we thought we would just ask everybody, mobility scooters and cyclists, to slow down a bit. Most are responsible, but like everything else there is a minority.”
A disabled man was banned from his local Post Office after staff told him his mobility scooter was not allowed entry.
Raymond Brown, 47, claimed two women in the Glasgow West Nile Street branch said only three-wheeled vehicles were permitted.
When he explained his four-wheeled scooter was a pavement model it made no difference. Raymond, who has had spina bifida since birth and cannot walk, said: “I was very angry and upset.”
He continued: “I was tempted to leave my scooter outside in the street and crawl in on my hands and knees at lunchtime just to make a point.”
A member of staff immediately offered him assistance, but then informed him his mobility scooter breached regulations. By the time Raymond reached the self-service checkout, a second member of staff appeared and reiterated the branch’s position. He was informed that it was a health and safety issue and the guidelines had been drafted by head office.
Raymond added: “They said I wasn’t allowed in the store because it was a four-wheeled mobility scooter. I was effectively banned. Wherever I go, people accommodate me, from Morrisons to House of Fraser. It is the only shop in Glasgow that has banned me.”
Raymond concluded: “Discrimination is not acceptable. I am doing this in support of all disabled people and hopefully my experience will force a review of this policy.”
The Post Office said its policy had been put in place following a number of ‘near misses’. A spokeswoman commented: “We were sorry to hear of the customer’s concerns regarding the service provided at our branch in West Nile Street. The branch team were correct to suggest that there are limitations on the types of mobility scooters which can enter the counter areas of our branches. Unfortunately, there have been a number of incidents and near misses in some branches.”
Marlborough District Council staff are encouraging mobility scooter users to plug in and recharge using town centre power points.
Although mobility scooter users can boost their batteries using several power points within the town, the recharge areas are not being widely used.
Blenheim councillor Jenny Andrews says the recharge points were installed to help make life easier for those people relying on mobility scooters to get around. She explains: “Not everyone is aware about the charge area though it does have some regular users. Most people get into the habit of charging their mobility scooters once a day and town is a great place to be able to do that. The mobility scooters are a life line really and truly help with people’s independence. All the charge areas are at places which make good gathering points and people can come along and charge their mobility scooters while they go and have a coffee with a friend for example. It’s about the social aspect of it too.”
Blenheim has a estimated 500 mobility scooter users. Jenny says Marlborough is “ideally suited” to mobility scooter users: “It’s such a flat area and as time progresses there will be more people needing to use them and we want to make that as easy as possible.”
An 80-year-old disabled woman says she has been left housebound after a cost-cutting council was forced to cancel its mobility scooter rental scheme.
Gravesham council used to offer scooters at tourism hub Towncentric in St George’s Square, Gravesend. It was moved as part of a council economy drive last year, along with the rental service, to Gravesend Borough Market.
But with her mobility scooter having recently broken and the council unable to spend the cash needed to fix it, users like Rosemary White are now unable to get into town. She explained: “I used to get the taxi into town, which was £10 each way and get transferred onto the mobility scooter, but I didn’t mind paying because I wanted to get out of my house. Now I am stuck on my own indoors. My family is in Australia, my husband died eight years ago, so there’s no one to help me. I can’t have a scooter here at home because the garage is right at the end of the road, there’s no dropped kerb, and it’s too heavy for me to lift.”
If a solution is not found, Mrs White says she will be not be able to leave her home in Lorton Close, Gravesend. Wayne Busbridge, vice chairman of Gravesham Access Group that works to promote access for all, described the end of the scheme as “disgusting”. He commented: “It’s poor for the town because it’s going to lose revenue from people that would go shopping in the town but needed a bit of help. We have already got problems with accessibility into shops and other places. This is badly cutting on the few that can’t fight back. The work going on with this transport quarter round by the station means we have already lost disabled parking bays.”
Mr Busbridge said he would be raising the group’s concerns with the council, which has been implementing a number of spending cuts in recent months. A spokesman for Gravesham council said it “was not viable” to continue the scooter scheme because not enough people were using it before the last one broke. He commented: “The number of users of the scooter scheme has reduced significantly in recent years, and since January this year it has only been used by two people. The mobility scooter has recently developed a fault and is currently out of use. We recognise that this service was valued by those that used it, but at present it is not viable to get it fixed and put resources in place for it to be reinstated. However, we are currently in discussion with local partners to see whether others are better placed to develop a scheme.”
According to Luton Today, a new website has been launched by the National Federation of Shopmobility to help recover stolen or abandoned mobility scooters and reunite them with their owners.
The National Mobility Registration Scheme was originally piloted in Littlehampton but it soon became clear that there was a national need for such a campaign. Spokesman Steve Perry explained: “We were amazed by 2015 police statistics which showed that out of 517 mobility scooters stolen, with an estimated value of £615,000, only 22% were recovered. He continued: “We understand the devastation and loss of independence this can cause.”
Luton Shopmobility manager Jayne Harris commented: “We’re pleased to support the scheme by helping clients register at the shop from 9am to midday, Monday to Friday. If you register online, please use our code LU01 which in turn will help to support us.”
It costs £12 annually and proceeds will be donated to National Federation of Shopmobility members.
A pensioner who spent the remainder of her savings on a mobility scooter in order to “keep her independence” has been prevented from using it by a train company.
Gillian Cockburn, who lives in Redcar, says travelling by train is the only way she can visit her sick husband, who is currently in the James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough. The 70-year-old usually travels from Redcar East station to Middlesbrough Central, but last Saturday morning, a Northern Rail staff member said she could not take the mobility scooter on board the train.
The rail company confirmed it doesn’t allow any type of mobility scooter on their services due to their “restricted manoeuvrability and stability – unless they can be folded up and carried on board as a piece of luggage. Mrs Cockburn, who describes herself as “severely disabled” says that while she might manage to fold up her mobility scooter, with some difficulty, she is physically unable to lift it on and off the train. She says the ruling means she is unable to visit her husband, who suffers from vascular dementia, on his birthday.
Gillian Cockburn explained: “I have travelled to the Midlands to visit my daughter using this mobility scooter and I have never had any problems. I am severely disabled and I have to rely on public transport to travel around – I don’t understand why this train company is any different. The alternative they have suggested is using a manual wheelchair, but that would take up more space and be harder to get on the train. If the mobility scooter was just lifted on, they wouldn’t have to use the ramps, and it would be so much easier and save so much time.”
A spokesperson for Northern Rail said: “As we operate several different types of trains and our services call at more than 500 stations with a variety of platform heights, this can cause safety issues when driving a mobility scooter on or off a train with a low platform. Unfortunately, the trains we operate were built before the introduction of mobility scooters and were therefore not designed with them in mind.”
The spokesman added: “However, we will continue to listen to customers to help inform future developments in our train fleet. We are always open to listening to our customers’ needs and requirements and are working towards improving accessibility for all.”