Brighton disabled champion gives mayor a scare

Posted On 04 Dec 2011 at 11:56 pm

The Mayor of Brighton and Hove had the fright of her life when she took a tour of the city in a wheelchair.

Councillor Anne Meadows normally travels in the mayor’s limousine with a uniformed chauffeur.

But on Friday she took her life in her hands when Chris Kift, a member of the Brighton and Hove Tenant Disability Network, led her through the streets in a motorised chair.

He wanted to show her how dangerous dropped kerbs are at the junctions of many streets in the area.

The mayor said: “That was an adventure. Who needs Thorpe Park when you can go round Brighton in one of these.

“I’d never realised how hard it was to get round our city. It’s given me a whole new perspective. And it’s not the most comfortable of chairs.

“What’s particularly bad are the tree-lined streets where all the roots have been tarmacked. You feel like you’re going to tip over. They’re very narrow too and you can only just get through.”

More than once during the tour the mayor said: “That was terrifying.”

But Mr Kift said towards the end of the 90-minute journey: “It wasn’t as terrifying as it could have been because improvements have been made in some places.

“But I’m going to keep fighting for disabled people to have more input into the planning of these so-called facilities so we have a safe route across the city.”

He said of the dropped kerbs: “They say they’re planned – but not with a disabled person.”

The mayor said: “He’s been very slow for me. I should have a learner plate.”

Mr Kift told her: “You’re getting good.”

The mayor said afterwards: “I want to alert officers to the problems that disabled people in wheelchairs encounter. I hadn’t appreciated how dangerous it is to be around parked cars at this level.

“And how lovely tree-lined avenues are so uneven.

“We had to take a very long detour because there was no easy crossing place on one very long road.

“Just going shopping and trying to retain your independence is not safe.”

She added that she would report back at the next council meeting – on Thursday 15 December – and would suggest that someone from the Tenant Disability Network attends planning committee meetings.

She joined Mr Kift for the morning after he issued a challenge to her at the October meeting of the council.

More than once she looked as though she might be about to topple over as she tried to cross a road via the dropped kerbs.

Mr Kift came close to tipping over outside Brighton Magistrates’ Court. He said: “That wasn’t planned. I come down here quite often.

“Earlier this year I had an accident in Egremont Place. I was told it had been checked but it still throws you out into the road.”

He was left with damaged ligaments and cuts, scrases and bruises – and was lucky not to have fallen into the path of a car.

The visible wounds have healed but they have left Mr Kift determined to prevent others suffering the same indignity and injuries.

  1. Chris Kift Reply

    Thank you for a good report, but I must correct one thing. I am not the chair of the Tenant Disability network, just an ordinary member.

  2. Jill Reply

    What a good idea ; only way to comprehend the difficulties is by experiencing them .

  3. Frank le Duc Reply

    Thanks, Chris. My mistake – and I’ve corrected it now.

  4. Chris Kift Reply

    I would like to thank Suchi Chatterjee for the loan of her wheelchair on Friday for the Mayors trip around the parish

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