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News Report Page 9 of 15
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Disabled woman from Southport abused by member of the public in face covering row

A shocking video has highlighted the abuse disabled people are experiencing in the wake of new rules about wearing face masks in public. Karolina Pakenaite (24), from Southport, has Usher Syndrome (which affects sight and hearing), and was travelling with her sister, Saule (16), and guide dog, on the Merseyrail train, from Liverpool Central to Southport, on Thursday, 16 July 2020, when they were challenged by a member of the public for having temporarily removed their face covering.

Saule, had temporarily lifted her face covering so her sister, Karolina, who is deafblind (deaf and severely sight impaired, registered blind) could read her lips. Government guidance states that disabled people who cannot safely wear face coverings are exempt, as are people who are providing support to disabled people who may rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound for communication. In the video, the passenger allegedly doesn't accept the pair's explanation and then challenges them on the description of Karolina being 'deafblind,' which causes a heated argument, before a member of the public intervenes.

The face coverings have been made compulsory in all shops and supermarkets in England and Scotland; as well as on public transport. A rise in reports of hostility from members of the public towards disabled people for not wearing face coverings, has led to the Government issuing an:- "exemption card" which disabled people can wear to show they don't need to cover up.

Charities have called on the Government to do more to promote public awareness on who is exempt from the new ruling, to protect vulnerable groups.

Karolina Pakenaite said:- "I can no longer stay silent about this as I keep experiencing attacks and hearing similar experiences from others too. It's taking an effect on my mental health. Not enough people are taking this pandemic seriously but this behaviour is never acceptable. Please, respect people individually, ask us, listen, discuss and I am always happy to hear ideas for alternative solutions, but harassment, name calling or any type of abuse or aggression will never be ok."

Richard Kramer, Chief Executive, of disability charity, Sense, said:- "Sadly, this isn't an isolated incident. We are hearing lots of reports of disabled people, and those supporting them, being challenged for not covering up. These experiences cause distress and anxiety, and lead many disabled people to feel they have to stay at home, where they become isolated. We welcome the Government's introduction of 'exemption cards', but more must be done to raise public awareness of who is exempt from wearing face coverings, so the public are on board and disabled people feel supported."

Pete Osborne, Director of Operations at Guide Dogs, said:- "We are so sorry that Karolina and her sister had to go through this distressing incident. No one with a disability should have to experience this kind of abuse. The new environment is difficult enough for people with sight loss and other disabilities to negotiate, so we really need everyone to understand the challenges people are facing every day. Such distressing incidents can result in people feeling they can't go out at all, adding to the real isolation people with disabilities experience."

Southport MP Damien Moore said:- "I was extremely disappointed to see the very unpleasant incident unfold on board this train. The rules on wearing face coverings on public transport have been in place for some time now, and have also become mandatory in shops and supermarkets from today. I have been pleased to see the vast majority of people locally have been happy to comply with the requirements, which are designed to keep ourselves and others safe from the transmission of Coronavirus. However, it is important that people know that there are exemptions to the wearing of masks, and these are in place for very good medical reasons. Finding these exemptions is easy to do through the website as well as through other sources. Since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak, we have all had to get used to new ways of life and new ways of doing things. As we do so I would urge everyone to show kindness, tolerance, patience and understanding towards others."

Click on here to see the footage from this incident that we uploaded onto our Facebook Page.

New fund to bring culture to the streets

A commissioned flash mob perform on Liverpool’s Church street back in 2017 as part of the Sgt Pepper celebrations.

A brand new ₤200,000 fund has been created to bring energy, culture and vibrancy on to the streets of Liverpool. Following recent announcements from central Government that socially distanced live performances are now allowed, Liverpool City Council and Arts Council England are launching a ₤200,000 pilot project to fund performing and visual art in the streets of Liverpool.

This is the next phase of the Liverpool Without Walls project which began in June by supporting the hospitality sector to reimagine eating outdoors. This latest strand of the project will look at how the City's world famous cultural offer can come out of the venues, galleries and performance spaces the City boasts, and turn the streets into a stage. The fund will support artists and organisations to create work which can be presented within the City Centre over the coming months; with grants of up to ₤5,000 on offer.

The aim is to help those who apply to look at new ways of making content, while also creating more reasons to encourage local and Regional audiences back into the City Centre.  The fund is available for organisations and individuals who are based in Liverpool, and the application form can be found here.  Applications will be assessed on a 1st come 1st served basis and the fund will remain open until all the money has been

Liverpool's Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for culture, tourism and events, Councillor Wendy Simon, said:- "The cultural and arts sector has been hit as hard as anyone by this crisis. Naturally our long term aim is to help organisations reopen their venues safely, but in the meantime we wanted to find a way for our artistic community to create and perform elsewhere. By giving artists and performers a lifeline to create new work, while also attracting people into the City Centre again, this project is a real win win."

Director of Culture for Liverpool Claire McColgan, said:- "When lockdown started, our extraordinary culture sector moved with speed and imagination to create brilliant work which could be shared digitally. This fund has been created to once again tap into their ingenuity and to come up with ideas for how to reimagine their art forms on the streets of Liverpool. We are renowned for producing brilliant outdoor performance in this City, so I am excited to see what the sector come up with."

Director of the Liverpool Biennial, Fatoş Ustek, said:- "Without Covid-19, this would have been the first week of the 11th Liverpool Biennial. Thousands of people from around the world would have been visiting Liverpool, engaging with an international array of artists and artworks. The fact that isn't happening is disappointing; yet necessary given the current circumstances. Liverpool Without Walls and the fund is timely and poignant. Through this initiative, we can stimulate engagement and activation of our streets, charged with art and a wide spectrum of cultural events. The arts and culture sector in Liverpool is strong and resilient. I believe we will be encountering many special artworks and performances as part of the Liverpool Without Walls fund."

Catherine Mitchell, Director North, Arts Council England said:- "I'm delighted that we are supporting this project to bring arts and cultural activity on to the streets of Liverpool. The Covid-19 crisis has hit the sector hard and it's great to be able to give artists financial support to create new work to inspire and engage audiences across the City. I look forward to seeing what Liverpool's artistic community produce for the local audiences."

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