Skye's councillors navigated Broadford and Portree entirely in wheelchairs on Monday 27 April.
The event was organised by the Skye and Lochalsh Access Panel to coincide with Wheelchair Awareness Day.
The Councillors recognised how some people seemed to see people differently in a wheelchair; how bumpy, uneven and narrow pavements were; how low they felt to the ground; how vulnerable they felt; how difficult it was to negotiate ramps, doors, to cross a road; how low overhanging branches hit them in the face; how they could not access disabled toilets, how they were unable to use an ATM; how there was a distinct lack of dropped kerbs resulting in them having to travel in a wheelchair on the A87 in Broadford, and elsewhere.
The councillors also heard from wheelchair users how they felt excluded when they were unable to do things such as meet with friends over a coffee, take children to a play park, go for a meal, watch their local football team, find a parking bay they could use, and attend and participate in community events.
One bad experience as a wheelchair user left them reluctant to leave home again and they explained that all they want, and deserve, is to feel welcomed into, and part of, their local community and to be able to participate and access things independently.
When the councillors were asked how they would feel if they had been highlighting access issues repeatedly for years, as disabled people have been doing locally, and yet little seemed to change, their answers included: “Very very frustrated”, “A sense of despondency” and “I would certainly feel that my needs weren’t being taken seriously.”
The Councillors have encouraged the Access Panel to repeat the wheelchair awareness event with officers in various departments in Highland Council in order to awaken them to issues with regard to people with different disabilities and to engage with Kate Forbes MSP and the Scottish Government to highlight the need for change in legislation and in standards nationwide. The Access Panel looks forward to working more closely with the councillors in the future.