Manchester Arena bombing survivor says disabled access in Manchester is 'tough' and 'exhausting'

  • Granada Reports Correspondent Elaine Willcox speaks to Martin Hibbert about accessibility issues for wheelchair users in Manchester and Salford

A survivor of the Manchester Arena bombing says disabled access in Manchester City Centre and the hospital where he receives regular treatment, can be "exhausting" and "tough".

Martin Hibbert, who went to the concert after buying tickets for his daughter Eve, was the closest person to the bomber to survive and was told five weeks after the attack that he would never walk again.

22 people died and hundreds more were injured when suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated a bomb in the foyer of Manchester Arena after an Ariana Grande concert, on 22 May 2017.

Martin would prefer to travel by train if it was an easy option. Credit: ITV News

Martin said he would prefer to travel by train if it was an easy option, but he says he has to book a train in advance in order to get disability access.

He said: "You've got to book. They normally say 24 hours but even then it can be hit and miss. I only really travel on trains when I'm going to London sadly."

Martin pointed out that in Manchester City Centre, many pedestrian crossings have broken slabs which can make the ground extremely unstable, putting him at risk of falling out of his wheelchair.

"This is the first drop curb. A lot of these slabs are broken and water will gather around the bottom. If your wheel gets caught in one of them [cracks in the slabs] I could be tipped out," he said.

Martin says cracked slabs can make the ground unstable, putting him at risk of falling out of his wheelchair. Credit: ITV News

Martin said that in Spinningfields, Manchester, he prefers to use his wheelchair in the road because it is more level and straight, but admits that "obviously it is dangerous".

"You've got to look at everything tactfully. How i'm going to get up, how i'm going to get down. It's exhausting."

He added: "Let's get planners and architects around the table and get them to test all these [the roads] with a wheelchair user or a disabled person or a mother with a pram. I bet they haven't.

Tattu Restaurant in Manchester city centre.

One of Martin's favourite restaurants in Manchester City Centre Tattu, a contemporary Chinese food and cocktail bar, does not have a lift which which poses a lot of challenges for wheelchair users.

He said: "It's disappointing. I came in the opening two weeks, I think that was in 2015 or 2016. We came several times before I was injured."

Tattu said in a statement:

"Our restaurant operates over two floors, with the dining room, bar, private dining area and bathrooms all fully accessible on the ground floor, and additional restaurant seating and our kitchens upstairs on the first floor. When we opened in 2015, in order to be compliant with regulations, our responsibility as a venue was to ensure that customers were able to enjoy the same experience, level of service and culinary offering across both floors."

Martin responded saying "the food is the same, but it's not the same experience".

He continued: "You get the feeling that you are just being plonked somewhere because you can't go upstairs."

"There's laws to say I shouldn't get discriminated against because I'm in a wheelchair and it's busy every night, so you're not telling me that they couldn't put a lift in."

Tattu said "We acknowledge the need for us to continue to evolve as an industry, and as a city. As our business grows we will remain fully committed to ensuring our spaces are safe, welcoming and accessible, whilst continuing to provide the best possible accessibility accommodations at our longer established sites. "

Salford Royal Hospital is where Martin's life was saved following the arena bombing. Credit: ITV News

Salford Royal Hospital is where Martin's life was saved following the arena bombing.

Due to building work on the hospital's main site, the closest disabled car parking spaces are on a hill.

"This hospital saved my life and it's great and I feel at home here, but looking up [the hill], you know I climbed Kilimanjaro and I don't think I was as out of breathe," he continued.

"It's really tough. Get the planners, get the local council to ask 'do you think this is adequate? Right, you get across here in a wheelchair and up there and i'll give you 5 minutes'. They won't be able to do it."

Salford Royal said in a statement “It is important that our facilities are inclusive to all, and this includes blue badge access at our car parks and ensuring there is level access to main entrances. The Trust have a team of volunteers that can provide additional assistance to patients who need help to get to their appointments."

Elaine Willcox joined Lucy Meacock and Gamal Fahnbulleh in the studio

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