South East Wales

Criticism over eisteddfod's disabled access

Wheelchair crossing the disabled car park at the National Eisteddfod at Ebbw Vale.
Image caption Mr Baldwin said the surface was made of rubble and was uneven

The standard of disability access at the National Eisteddfod in Ebbw Vale is criticised by the family of a wheelchair user.

Gareth Baldwin, 49, of Cwmbran, Torfaen, described parts of the eisteddfod site as "a bomb site".

He said Margaret Williams, 80, struggled to get around the maes (event field) due to its uneven surface.

The eisteddfod said it would comment after speaking with the local council.

This year's eisteddfod is being held on the site of the Blaenau Gwent town's former steelworks.

Mr Baldwin and Mrs Williams, a wheelchair user since she underwent four hip replacements and two knee replacements, visited the site on Sunday.

But Mr Baldwin, a secondary school teacher, said battling against the uneven and rocky surface on the site "definitely spoiled the day".

"I was worried if I hit a stone at the wrong angle it would tip over the chair," he said.

Image caption The uneven surface at the site made it difficult to push Mrs Williams in her wheelchair, Mr Baldwin said

"If my wife Catherine had gone with her mother instead of me I think they would probably have turned back from the car park and come home.

"I'm surprised they have not had more complaints or claims."

Mr Baldwin explained that when he and Mrs Williams arrived at the site's general car parking area on Sunday they were directed to the disabled car park "at the far end of the site".

"When we got there it was rubble," he said. "It was like a bomb site.

"The disabled area was compacted rubble and I couldn't push the wheelchair from where we'd parked the car to the park and ride minibus, which was the only way onto the maes."

Mr Baldwin said that despite Mrs Williams being "very unsteady on her legs" she had to walk 25 to 30 yards (23 to 27m) for the bus.

When the bus reached the drop-off point for the disabled at the entrance to the maes, they found it was an uneven, stony track, he said.

Mr Baldwin, an enthusiastic visitor to the eisteddfod since the 1970s, added: "The atmosphere is fantastic up there, they have done a really good job.

"Not all the stalls had ramps for wheelchairs to get into but those we could access put on a really good show.

The pair visited the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) stand where they explained the situation.

An EHRC spokesperson said it would not comment on the matter at this stage.

'Common issue'

Mr Baldwin said he had since e-mailed the eisteddfod to complain.

A spokesperson for the eisteddfod said: "We will respond once we have spoken to Ebbw Vale council."

On hearing of Mr Baldwin's comments, a spokesperson for Disability Wales said: "We are disappointed that despite disabled people raising concerns at previous eisteddfods that this issue has occurred again.

"We would have hoped that this would have been overcome by now, that the necessary arrangements would have been put in place for disabled people."

The spokesperson said the organisation was due to visit the site on Wednesday and would see the situation for itself.

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