Blind woman wins landmark NI Court challenge over kerb height

Emma Wightman

19 May 2017

 

A recent ruling before NI’s High Court highlights how the legal actions of an individual can help both effect change and highlight the need for equality in our society. 

On 12th May 2017, a blind woman from Lisburn won a landmark High Court challenge against Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council’s plan to reduce kerb heights in Lisburn city centre as part of  the city's regeneration scheme.

This regeneration scheme is aimed at transforming the streets in the centre of Lisburn and creating new paving and kerbs around the Bow Street and Market Square areas of the city centre.

Joanna Toner had taken a legal case against Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council after fearing that the scheme would result in her being excluded from parts of her own city centre due to the risk of stepping out and being hit by traffic.  Joanna commented:

"If you can't tell where the path ends and the road begins you're just not safe from stepping out into traffic." 

She was supported in her challenge by Guide Dogs NI and the Royal National Institute of Blind People in Northern Ireland. 

The Court ruled that the Council had breached its legal duty to ensure equality for disabled people, particularly the blind, and quashed the Council’s decision to lower the kerb height.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Maguire said:

"There is clear evidence that the blind or partially sighted as a group of disabled people were likely to be affected by the way the scheme was designed and built." 

Mrs Toner was delighted with the outcome of the case and commented that:

"The Council have to take into consideration the needs of disabled people in every decision they take."

Our legal system in Northern Ireland plays a primary role in ensuring that the rights of people like Mrs Toner are protected within society.  Judicial Review is a type of Court proceeding in which a Judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body.  The decisions of our government, local authorities and other public bodies are all able to be challenged via our Court system if it can be shown that the decision made was  unlawful.

If you would like further advice or assistance on challenging the decision of a public body, please contact Emma Wightman on info@fhanna.co.uk for a no obligation discussion or call us on 028 9024 3901.