The chairman of a local campaign group has condemned Hackney Council over its “apathy” towards disabled people after testing its Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) map.
In the wake of the Grenfell fire, the Town Hall pledged to publish 1,800 FRAs, which highlight any fire safety risks at a building, for all its estate blocks.
It started the process in late July in the form of an interactive map at the bottom of its FRA webpage.
But John Thornton, acting chair of Hackney-based Disability BackUp (DBU), said the map is another example of “indifference amongst Hackney Council staff”.
DBU, which is located on Dalston Lane, is an independent forum for disabled people living in Hackney. It is led by disabled people, and aims to give its users a voice on key issues in the borough.
After testing the council’s map, which features a Google-style marker for each of the 59 FRAs published so far, Thornton said: “It is just that reliance on graphics that lets it down – just as the FRA reports rely on tabulated information.
“As is the case with so much of Hackney Council’s material and policy, changing it to make it accessible for all would be relatively simple and easy.
“Yet apathy, indifference – and sometimes pure bloody-mindedness – amongst Hackney Council staff denies disabled people the opportunity to play a full role in Hackney life.”
The council’s accessibility webpage provides a link to Browsealoud, a free tool which enables a website to read aloud to users.
But Thornton said: “I can see that for a person using a screen-reading facility – such as a blind or visually impaired person – navigation of the FRA map to the various locations may be very difficult.”
He also said the actual FRA documents “do not exactly make easy reading”, adding: “Most documents originate in Word, or a variant, and these FRAs are produced exclusively in Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format, which is not the most accessible of formats.
“An alternative format, for example Word or plain text, would vastly increase the documents’ accessibility at little or no cost to the council, and should be made available upon request.”
When quizzed about the usability of the FRA map, a Town Hall spokesperson said: “The council’s website has been tested for accessibility. Additional functionality will be added to the fire safety web page at a later date.”
When asked if the website had been tested for accessibility since the map was first published, they added: “The website is accessible and conforms to Level AA of the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0.
“The map also has a search function for residents to search for their property. In the coming weeks, new functionality will be added to the web page – for example, an option to choose an address from a dropdown list.”