Disability: Wheelchair user says life has become a battle

Since becoming a wheelchair user, Juno Sinclair said life had become a battle.

Obstacles are constantly placed in the 22-year-old's path, from cars parked illegally to street furniture and problems with dropped kerbs.

Juno, who has an Instagram page highlighting problems faced by wheelchair users, has also been treated as an "inanimate object" by others.

Cardiff council said it worked with assorted groups to fix problems for disabled people.

Juno recently started using a wheelchair following a diagnosis of non-epileptic seizures.

Regular fits and seizures meant the fine art student ended up housebound for five months because it was too risky to go outside. 

Juno believed the wheelchair would make it easier to get out and about.

But it soon became clear it was not that simple.

What used to be a 20-minute walk to the supermarket could now take an hour because of accessibility problems.

"Every other drop kerb was not there or too steep or blocked by cars or vans," Juno said.

"It's an absolute battle."

To raise awareness Juno created the Instagram page called Inaccessible Cardiff.

"It's a local issue for me but it's a nationwide cause, I had an overwhelming feeling that society is built against people like me," they said.

Juno said complaints to the council had not led to improvements.

Now, they are calling for better legislation and education so people are aware of the reality of life using a wheelchair. 

"Everyone is worth something from the moment you're born and that's forgotten," Juno said. 

"That's why there are accessibility issues and discrimination."

When Juno could walk, they said other people treated them as an equal.

"When I leave the house in a wheelchair people treat me like I don't exist and it hurts," they said.

"In supermarkets, they lean past me, move me out the way and pretend like I'm not there.

"I'm treated like an empty cage someone has left while stacking shelves."

Access for disabled people is a legal requirement under the Equality Act 2010.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is also supposed to to protect those with disabilities.

Disability Wales project officer Kat Watkins said the reality was "hit and miss" 

"Cars park on pavements and on dropped kerbs, which is illegal," she said. 

"It's like a chicane course trying to dodge in and out of street furniture such as A-boards."

Kat has osteogenesis imperfecta - brittle bones - and ended up with several broken bones after crashing into a lamppost while checking a map.

"Days out are exhausting, I need to plan exactly where I'm going and keep focused the whole time," she said.

It was "mentally draining" trying to dodge people and street furniture.

Kat agreed better education was needed to improve public awareness.

"It's really baffling when someone is parked on a drop kerb or on the pavement," she said. 

"They say they support rights for disabled people but then they've stopped us from accessing a dropped kerb.

"It's not just for wheelchair users. It's for those who use sticks, guide or assistance dogs and even people with pushchairs. You're blocking them and it's not fair."

Councils, she said, needed to start fining more people to send the message it was unacceptable to block access through parking inconsiderately.

Kat said if everyone worked together that would help planning and delivering public services and spaces that were accessible to all.

Cardiff council said as part of an equalities and access forum it worked with assorted organisations to resolve problems relating to access to the highway network and public transport for disabled people.

It said parking on dropped kerbs was an offence and the council took action against those committing it.

The Welsh Local Government Association said local authorities were committed to making streets as accessible as possible but was aware problems remained.

A spokesman said: "There's been long-running tension between making high streets easier to navigate on the one hand and, on the other, supporting businesses looking to advertise on the pavement.

"We know that this can cause obstacles and create problems for people with accessibility issues. Local authorities are working with shops in town centres to improve the situation and overcome any issues."