Quite a while ago now, I read a really well thought out and well written post by the lovely Jo at jboccupationaltherapy.co.uk. I’d always known that accessibility is different for everyone, but I’d not really thought about it in depth. Over these past couple of years, I’ve been thinking about this more and I finally feel ready to share with you some of my thoughts and experiences.
The main message from Jo’s Accessibility. There’s More To It Than You Think post is that accessibility is different for everyone. This is a message that I 100% agree with. Even people with the same disability or medical condition can vary in their needs, so it’s impossible to make a blanket statement about what aids/adaptations someone need based purely on their diagnosis. Just like our fingerprints, our needs are unique. Jo gives a great example about how lower counters are great for her as a wheelchair user, but can be problematic for those with back problems.
As a result of the Equality Law, it’s a legal requirement for employers and public services to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people. But how can people make reasonable adjustments for everyone? This is where some of the responsibility falls on disabled and chronically ill people. To the best of our ability, we need to let people know of our needs and in good time so they can put things in place for us. Because if we don’t educate people about our needs, how can make their environment suitable for us?
Now, I know that telling yet another person what you need is hard/impossible when you’re consumed by fatigue or at the end of your tether from telling people the same basic things. I get it, I really do. And it’s ok to take a step back for self care and not push for the adjustments you need. You have to pick your battles and do what’s best for your health and wellbeing.
But disabled and chronically ill people are not the only people with responsibilities here. The biggest responsibility falls on the employer or service to act on the information given to them by disabled and chronically ill people to make their spaces accessible to the individual. But when the government don’t make reasonable adjustments, what hope is there for other service providers? I’m talking here about information for my PIP tribunal being provided to me on cream paper, despite me telling the DWP that I can only read black text on a white background AND THEM ACKNOWLEDGING THIS IN MY ASSESSMENT! Even on the day of my tribunal I hadn’t received the appropriate paperwork in a format I could read.
As accessibility is different for everyone, I thought I’d share some of my experiences to highlight how service providers can provide good accessibility and show some of the potentially serious outcomes of a company not making the reasonable adjustments that are required of them.
Accessibility Is Different For Everyone: Examples Of Poor Accessibility Practices
One of the holidays Dan and I have been on together, gives a very good example of poor accessibility practices. When we booked the holiday, I was sent a disability questionnaire to fill out. Alarm bells started ringing when the only dietary requirement questions were about ‘life threatening allergies’. Me being me, I decided to annotate the form. So as well as telling them that I go into anaphylactic shock from strawberries, I also added my full allergy list underneath. Because while wheat, nuts, eggs, etc. won’t kill me, they sure will make me very poorly!
When we arrived in our room, we found an invitation on our bed to a meeting with the chef for the next morning. What a great idea! If only this meeting had taken place before our first meal…
When we arrived, one of the waitresses came over to our table and read out my allergy list to check that they had everything correct. Let’s gloss over that this is a data protection issue, particularly as our table was made up of other guests, non of whom we knew.
When my main course came, there were six things on the plate. Two of these I was allergic to and were clearly written on my allergy list, that had been read out to me. WHAT!?! However, we didn’t get a chance to sort this issue out, as I became rather unwell and Dan had to take me back to our room.
On the disability form, I’d made them aware that I have basilar type migraine, that this cause me to lose of consciousness and that this is triggered by my photosensitivity. After booking the holiday, we were sent additional information about the facilities, including that they have on-site photographers. We enquired about this on the phone and in writing, to be told that the photographers would only be in certain areas and at certain times. This didn’t include our first night at dinner.
Despite what we had been told AND the information we’d given the company, not long after we’d started our dinner the photographers arrived and started taking photos of guests. Dan went and spoke to the photographers, explaining that I’m photosensitive and flash photography can make me extremely unwell. He also explained that flash photography anywhere in the room would cause me a problem and that it’s not just flash used directly at me that cause a problem. The photographers stopped for about 10 minutes and then started up again.
I don’t remember much after this. Dan tells me that he made the restaurant manager to internee and spoke to the photographers himself a second time. This made no difference and by the time our main courses were brought out, Dan had to take me back to our room because I was close to loosing consciousness. When Dan phoned reception to request medical assistance for me, he was told that it would cost £71 for the hotel nurse to come up to see me. Even though it was the hotel who had made me ill!
Having given the company the information they needed to prevent these things from happening and keep me safe, it’s not acceptable that they happened. These are extreme examples of accessibility done badly, but they give you an idea of the things that can happen and the consequences that poor accessibility can cause.
I’ve previously spoken about the issues I’ve faced getting in and out of my house on rubbish day, so I’m not going to get into those again. If you want to know more, head to my Why Are The Council Blocking Disabled Access To My House With Bins? post.
Accessibility Is Different For Everyone: Examples Of Good Accessibility Practices
Often, good accessibility is overlooked. So I feel it’s important to champion those who are getting it right.
Center Parcs Woburn Adventure Golf after improvements.
Last year, Dan and I went to Center Parcs. I’d just got my new wheelchair and was excited to put it to the test. Most of the Woburn site was very well thought out, but we has issues getting round the supposedly accessible adventure golf course. After our visit, Center Parcs got in touch with me on Twitter to share the improvements they’ve made to the adventure golf course as a result of disabled customers feedback! Because accessibility is different for everyone, it’s so important for companies to act on feedback to make their facilities better. I’m really pleased to see that Center Parcs have been so proactive in this. The adventure golf course looks so much easier to navigate as a wheelchair user. You can read more about my experience in my Center Parcs Woburn Accessibility Review.
Center Parcs Woburn Adventure Golf after improvements.
‘After’ photos provided by Center Parcs, with kind permission to include them on my blog.
If you’ve watched my Birmingham Shopping Trip Vlog, you’ll have seen the really cool stairs outside the Apple store that fold in to become a mini lift. While this needs to be operated by a member of staff, it makes an old building accessible without having to use an alternative entrance. More places need these!
So I think we can all agree that accessibility is different for everyone and that while there are lots of examples of poor accessibility, there are also people and companies making an effort to be as inclusive and accessible as possible. But it’s not just disabled/chronically ill people and service providers who are responsible for making and keeping areas as inclusive as possible. Members of the public also have a responsibility for making sure spaces are accessible.
I’ve had quite a few experiences of people trying to be helpful by pushing my wheelchair for me, but actually what they’ve done is hurt me. Because accessibility is different for everyone, it’s really important that members of the public ask a disabled or chronically ill person if they want help and how they can help, rather than making assumptions. I’ve talked more about this in my Please Don’t Push My Wheelchair YouTube video.
Have you had any particularly good or bad experiences of accessibility?
What could be put in place to make things more accessible for you?
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