It is still Disability Pride Month, so lets chat about the importance of accessibility at venues and small businesses. Pull up a chair for some horror stories!
I have been disabled since I was in my early 20s, over the years I have used many different types of mobility aids. From crutches, to walkers, to wheelchairs I have used them in my day to day life to make sure that I am safe when I am moving about.
In that time, I have been to some really incredibly accessible places but I have also had some shocking experiences!
Considering that the law which governs buildings in the Disability Discrimination Act came in, in 1995 it should not be something we still need to talk about. Honestly, there is no excuse for businesses to still have inaccessibility; especially when you see even historic places like Shugborough Hall are making strides in it.
Recently, my husband and I have been volunteering with a local bird sanctuary, he goes there to help out and together we work on their social media. The actual sanctuary rents land on a farm, and I was really excited to visit, but when I tried I couldn’t even get to the sanctuary!
The farmer has chosen to use gravel on the walkways, which makes it painful and difficult to get over in a wheelchair. I spoke to the owner of the sanctuary and after they had someone give them a donation, they laid mats down that allow water to escape, which prevents flooding, but makes it easier to wheel over.
Now, I really like the guy who runs the sanctuary, but I had to battle with him for even the idea of making it more accessible to be seen as a priority. I had to say how important it was to get money from disabled people and how even prams and pushchairs would find it easier…
But why should it be put into those terms? Why should money come before people?
“In a global population of 7 billion individuals, over 1 billion live with a disability. That is 15% of the world’s population – the “world’s largest minority”.”– Humanity & Inclusion
We are the largest minority in the world, and yet we are treated like fakers, or as if us being able to enjoy our lives and go out for events and fun shouldn’t be a thing. Too often it is stressed unless what we spend our money on is for our disabilities, then we shouldn’t do it!
Its almost as if days out at animal sanctuaries, or concerts, or meals shouldn’t be considered to be made accessible because why should we be going? Everything that makes our lives easier, from pre-cut up vegetables, to wheelchairs we have to explain and give full accountability for.
The laws surrounding accessibility have been around for 30years, but I still had to almost beg and plead for the ability to make the sanctuary so I could go around it. However, the farm itself is still mostly inaccessible to me, and I had to walk farther than I should have just so I could get to see the owls.
Yes, I finally went to the sanctuary the other day, but I had to walk to the sanctuary as being in the wheelchair on gravel is almost impossible to push and painful. The matts are not too much better, but once they are settled I think it will make a vast improvement.
This is not the worse experience I have had though, and thinking back it just reinforces the importance of accessibility at venues and small businesses. Back when I was single, I went to London to visit a friend, we made sure I could get in, there was no step it was lovely…until I needed the bathroom. We asked but they were down a spiral staircase I couldn’t use, the disabled toilets were being shared with a bar across the road!! I had to leave the venue I was in, cross a busy London road just to use the toilet!!
One of the best places I have been to was the NEC in Birmingham, a huge venue that hosts some of the biggest events and concerts in Britain. There, disabled people are placed on a balcony, with seats for a carer and a bathroom that is fully accessible for each section. There are stewards there keeping the area safe and it has been my best experience at concerts… we won’t get into booking concerts etc that is a tale for another day!
Accessibility shouldn’t be something that I still need to worry about, I shouldn’t still be told that I will be lifted into buildings in my wheelchair. Or the awful experiences that people have on aeroplanes!!!!
So, if you own a small business think about how someone who is disabled would access and buy from you. We are human beings, we like to enjoy life just like everyone else, and so the importance of accessibility at venues and small businesses matters because disability can happen to anyone.
Thank you xx