Sheffield man who lost both legs is left in tears over lack of access to parents’ graves in Hackenthorpe
After losing both his legs to an illness over a year ago, the only thing this Sheffield man wants is to be closer to his late parents.
Paul Shepherd, 61, is now confined to a wheelchair, but that doesn't stop him from visiting his parents' plot at Christ Church cemetery, in Hackenthorpe, three times a week.
However, those trips have become a huge struggle, as it is physically impossible for him to be near, let alone see, his parents' plot due to the lack of disabled access.
He had attempted to get across the cemetery several times before with his mobility scooter but it got caught in the grass, causing him to fall over.
Now, all he asks is for the church to build a little path, at least three feet wide and 50 yards long, so he can sit with his parents as he did previously.
He said: "The first time I came here, I fell off. I fell over and went into a ditch, and I went down. Luckily, when I found other people visiting another grave, they helped me get back up.
“And another time, I tried doing it again. I went down to the bottom path and I got stuck, and I was there for an hour and a half before somebody came."
Paul, a former labourer, said he had raised the matter with the Rev Peter Allen, the vicar at the church, but unfortunately his request was turned down.
Failing to hold back his tears, he said: "Can I have a path, please? Is there just a little path or some little steps here so I can sit with my parents?”
What does the church say about disabled access to graveyard?
Rev Peter Allen explained there were a number of factors as to why Paul's request was rejected.
He told how he had met Paul to discuss the situation about a year ago, when he had offered to push his wheelchair to his parents’ plot on a regular basis.
“At that time, things were quite amicable between Mr Shepherd and myself, as I assured him I would bring the situation to the attention of the church council,” he said.
"Mr Shepherd told me he had an offer of labour and materials to put in a path and I thanked him for his generous offer and tried to explain that any such changes to the church yard have to comply with diocesan regulations which involve a diocesan approved surveyor and, if the work can be done, diocesan approved labour and materials.
The Reverend said he then informed the church council of the situation and invited a diocesan surveyor to view the site and advise them regarding the possible introduction of a path that would run alongside Paul's family plot and be wide enough for a wheelchair.
But the surveyors, he said, had made it clear that there would be a number of obstacles to overcome before any change could be made.
"This situation was further compromised by the falling income of the church due to the various lockdown measures we were facing at the time,” he explained.
"I had kept Mr Shepherd aware of each stage of this exploration but eventually had to inform him that, regretfully, we could not pursue this matter any further.”
He said he had not spoken to Paul since.