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Sarah Cocks hits out at disabled access in Penzance

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: January 17, 2013

Sarah Cocks.  CIoSP

Sarah Cocks. CIoSP

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A YOUNG woman confined to a wheelchair after a shock diagnosis has hit out at the poor disabled access in a west Cornwall town.

Doctors discovered that Sarah Cocks, from Long Rock, was suffering from a life-threatening disease just before Christmas and said she would be putting her health at risk if she tried to walk.

Since then the 22-year-old has struggled to get around Penzance and said the inadequate access had left her embarrassed and feeling as though she shouldn't leave her house.

"Having recently become wheelchair-bound, I knew that I would have teething problems getting around places but I wasn't prepared for being made to feel that I shouldn't be leaving the house," she said.

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Miss Cocks was due to climb Mount Kilimanjaro as part of a charity event when she was told in a routine medical examination that she had systemic lupus erythematosus – a life-threatening and incurable disease that attacks the immune system. She was also diagnosed with osteonecrosis, which causes the blood supply to the bones to die and begin to crumble.

Doctors told Miss Cocks, following the diagnosis in November, that although she could still use her legs, it was far safer to use a wheelchair instead, to protect her bones.

"Even if I take a few steps I could injure myself and if I broke a bone it would take far longer to heal," she said.

Miss Cocks contacted The Cornishman after trying and failing to use the lift at Wharfside Shopping Centre on two separate occasions.

With her confidence knocked by having to use the wheelchair, Miss Cocks was persuaded by a friend to go for a meal at Renaissance Café Bar in the shopping centre, which has a lift and therefore easy disabled access.

"At the end of the meal we paid and left, only to discover that the lifts had been turned off with no notice that they were going to be," she said.

It was then down to Miss Cocks' friend to push her up out of the shopping centre and down the steep hill back to Wharfside car park.

"This extra hassle, not only for myself but for my friend, was embarrassing to say the least – for this to happen on my first outing, it did nothing for my self-confidence," she said.

"It is very important for anyone who is disabled to not let it affect anyone else around you but this completely put a black cloud over the evening."

After a little persuasion, Miss Cocks again visited Renaissance, this time during late-night shopping when it was thought the lift would still be operating.

Unfortunately the lift had again stopped.

"I was so upset to think that I had basically been banned from having a social life in the hours of darkness," she said.

"These instances have made a difficult transition that I have had to make an almost impossible one."

Peter Wood, manager of the shopping centre, agreed that the lift should have been operating during late-night shopping. He said that for the past few weeks it had been shut at 7pm to try to stop it being used by homeless people or as a place for drug-taking.

"We will be reviewing it and are grateful for feedback," he said.

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  • twofeetofsnow  |  April 15 2013, 6:13PM

    Good luck Sara, there are many places that bend over backwards to help, Waves in Causeway Head is a great place to eat and you can't find friendlier people than the guys who own it. There are tons of headaches but getting outside makes life worth living. Keep smiling. :o)

  • Doitdreckley  |  January 17 2013, 4:30PM

    Disabled access can be a problem in many Cornish towns. Uneven and poorly maintained pavements, pavement lips that are difficult or impossible to negotiate, business signs plonked in the middle of pavements etc. If you have an electric chair then hills are not a problem and no one would seriously argue that you can do anything about hills in Cornwall but disabled toilets should be disabled accessible (they are not for all disabled people -steps, assistance handles in the wrong place, poor design, broken an unreplaced toilet seats). As for the lift in Penzance it should be incumbent on the powers that be to put the needs of mothers with buggies and disabled people first and make sure that drug takers and homeless do not mean that the lift ought to be closed. And here is an idea - why dont we do something as a society and vote in a government/lobby for change that addresses issues such as homlessness and drug taking (especially with Penzance as a historical bin for these people) so that people have a home and are off drugs. None of that will get any better with Andrew George Eustice austerity.

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  • piperzion  |  January 17 2013, 4:08PM

    One agrees with Lafrowda regarding this article, it is very misleading. I especially think the Wharfside Shopping Centre was unfairly slated. I have a disabled mother who is in a wheelchair and the Wharfside is one of the better facilitated areas of Penzance. When you enter the Center you do not have to contend with steps as you enter the retail shops and because there is a natural slope to the centre wheelchair access it extremely easy really. With all due respect to Miss Cocks, it is her OWN ATTITUDE to her disability that is preventing her 'social life'. (Sorry Miss Cocks) As for the lift issue, as a member of the general public I agree with Mr wood's decision to deactivate the lifts at night. My mother and I have had dealings with the homeless taking residence in the lifts when we have needed to use them at night, I refused to use the lift and pushed my mother in her wheelchair through the centre and used the longer route around; it was NO TROUBLE TO ME at all. As a general rule I did notice that the lifts became inactive at 19:00 hrs, however my mother and I noticed that there WAS active lifts during the late night shopping period, we used one at 21:00hrs, by then everyone was closed so I do not think the centre was being unreasonable really. I believe that the wharfside Shopping Centre did not intentionally prevent 'disabled access', it must be very difficult for Mr Wood to negotiate an even balance; Mr Wood, my mother and I are very grateful for any disabled access that your centre provides, thank you!

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  • Lafrowda  |  January 17 2013, 9:48AM

    Very misleading article. A lift was not working, it happens to mechanical things, it will be fixed. There is a steep hill from the harbour car park, shall we flatten it ? Perhaps if we relocate the town on a nice flat flood plain it would solve the problem for us oldies who find walking in Penzance hard on the legs & joints as well as unfortunate people like Sarah. I am afraid all limitations in life cannot be remedied without everyone else being limited by the change.

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