Improving access for the elderly and disabled has become a key part of town planning in recent years. Whether it’s building ramps for wheelchairs or installing handrails for people to hold onto so they don’t fall, architects and designers have so much to consider when dreaming up their latest construction?
But how do you improve access to something that has already been there for decades? This was a dilemma faced by Westhoughton Town Council after it emerged some people were having trouble accessing the Lancashire town’s war memorial.
The memorial, which was erected in 1919, features a flight of steps leading up to it and those steps were starting to present a problem to elderly residents wishing to pay tribute to fallen friends and family members. Following last year’s Remembrance Day service, the council vowed to take action.
The crumbling steps have been repaired and new handrails installed so those visiting the memorial to pay their respects can do so “with dignity”.
Westhoughton mayor Cllr Christopher Peacock said the renovations would ensure elderly people retain the power to pay respects to those killed in action “independently and with dignity”. He said: “Last year we noticed that some people were really struggling with the steps and we were anxious that similar problems do not detract from this Remembrance Sunday.
“A lot of people who actually remember loved ones killed in the two world wars are inevitably getting older so this seemed the sensible thing to do.”
As time catches up with us, many of us will have difficulty getting around in our later years and to some, climbing the stairs may present an increasing challenge. However, not everyone can afford an expensive stair lift; while others may feel installing a lift would represent a loss of independence. This is why a secure, high quality handrail is paramount for anyone using the stairs, whether it’s at home, at work or in a public building.
Knowing there is something to hold onto when going up or down the stairs will increase anyone’s confidence, whatever age they are, but for someone with limited mobility, it could be a lifesaver. If you are using a staircase with a handrail, be sure to use it, especially if you sometimes have trouble walking upstairs. Don’t rush – take as much time as you need – this reduces the risk of tripping over a step.
It’s good to know councils like that in Westhoughton are taking the needs of residents into consideration and going out of their way to help those that need it the most.