Bristol Surge Test Sites Lack Accessibility Plans

OpinionDisabled Access to Bristol Surge Test Sites shows once again that disabled access is an afterthought

Disabled people will not be able to take advantage of promised advanced booking at Bristol surge test sites, after Bristol City Council confirmed yesterday that these were now ‘on hold’.

A news update from the council on 10 February 2021 stated: ‘No appointment is required to get a test at the MTU sites or to collect a kit from a community Collect and Drop location. Plans to introduce a booking system have been put on hold whilst extra testing sites are being brought online and will be considered again if needed.’

The Wellington Road St Jude’s site is one of three initial drop-in test centres set up for people living in specific postcodes to have a surge test. The aim is to find asymptomatic cases in locations where a new variant of coronavirus has been found.

When we arrived on Monday 08 February for a test, it was clear there was an effective system for getting those arriving by car tested quickly. But those walking to the site faced a lengthy wait.

Inside the former Office World and Staples building, a long queue snaked around the wall, with those testing just a few foot away and with no privacy.

When asked about the disabled access at the site, a steward told us that it was only what we could see. The long queue of people standing was likely to have taken at least 45 minutes, there was no seating available, there was already a couple of elderly people balancing on a pair of walking sticks each and no break away waiting space for those unable to queue, a difficulty associated with neurodivergent conditions and disabilities.

At regular intervals came extremely loud metallic crashes, again very distressing for those with neurodivergent conditions, hearing and sensory processing difficulties. After waiting for 15 to 20 minutes without the queue moving and with the autistic person young person accompanying us starting to have a meltdown, we were forced to leave.

Before leaving, I asked a person at the entry to the main site with a Bristol City Council badge on if there was someone managing the site available to speak with. After enquiring what the problem was, she said that from Tuesday 09 February, a booking mechanism would be in place,

When checking out Bristol City Council’s surge testing website site for information and Frequently Asked Questions on return home, there was no mention of disability access or arrangements. There is now, but it’s come as an after thought and after questions have been publicly raised.

Bristol City Council replied to our disability issues on 11 February, three days after raising them. They said: ‘Our Collect and Drop sites will be points where people can collect tests for those unable to leave their homes. Collect and Drop instructions will be issued with the testing kits, and tests must be carried out safely in the home.

‘For those who receive care at home through the Department of Health and Social Care, tests will be given to care staff to administer to those they care for at home. Care staff and support bubble members can support the completion of the test, if appropriate hygiene measures are taken such as use of gloves and washing hands thoroughly before and after administration.

‘Our community development team are also working with several disability groups in the area to finalise how best we can support those with disabilities, including the implementation of more accessible drop and collect sites.’

When raising the issue of there being no disabled access plan and having to leave with no test we were told: ‘We’re very sorry to hear this. Our Collect and Drop sites will be points where people can collect tests for those unable to leave their homes. Collect and Drop instructions will be issued with the testing kits, and tests must be carried out safely in the home.

‘For those who receive care at home through the Department of Health and Social Care, tests will be given to care staff to administer to those they care for at home.

‘Care staff and support bubble members can support the completion of the test, if appropriate hygiene measures are taken such as use of gloves and washing hands thoroughly before and after administration.

‘Our community development team are also working with several disability groups in the area to finalise how best we can support those with disabilities, including the implementation of more accessible drop and collect sites. Please regularly check our additional community testing pages at www.bristol.gov.uk or www.southglos.gov.uk, or local news outlets for new information about this.’

Whilst there are collect and drop sites, this relies on having a local support network during lockdown in a global pandemic. When there is a walk-in test site 60 seconds from your front door, it is ridiculous that local people are unable to access the site when very simple adjustments can be made. The building is very large already, there was plenty of space for those needing to queue to break away from or even pick up and drop off test kits.

Yet again, disabled people continue to be an after thought and only have access needs considered once people begin to complain.

More from Chopsy Baby
Subscribe on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/chopsybaby/
Follow us on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/chopsybristol
On Facebook https://www.facebook.com/chopsybristol/
Home http://www.chopsybaby.com