So often it is the negative stories we hear in the media about people with disabilities unable to access goods or services: a wheelchair-user facing a stepped entrance, a visually impaired person needing audio support or a deaf person needing visual support.
How can you help me?
Yet there are many forward-thinking, good suppliers and organisations who have implemented a variety of excellent strategies to help people with disabilities. Where are they?
People across the spectrum of disability, not just wheelchair-users usually need to plan journeys, visits or breaks, sometimes weeks or months in advance. This varies from person, to person, but it is rare to be able to go somewhere on the spur of the moment, without having to go online, check websites and make phone-calls. And all you want to do is get in and spend your money!
Sorry, this line is no longer in use…
Phone-calls to a ‘specially designated line’ will send you crawling to bed, nursing either a bad headache, a foul temper or both. By the time you’ve got through to the end of where you think you needed to get the ring tone sounds, or they are only staffed a few hours a day when the line is jammed with everyone else doing what you’re doing. Or the operator directs you to another line, only to go through the same process again. Press 5 if you’ve had enough and you want to go home…
Couldn’t service-providers easily simplify this whole matter by advertising the benefits they provide for disabled people? And with modern telephony, is it not unreasonable to expect the usual line could be redirected to an operator – a real person – who can swiftly give you the answers you need? One call does it all. But where does it even state on the website that you can call and speak to someone, or list the access they provide?
What do you mean?
All too often, people with a disability are expected to know what is offered, whether it is a theatre, bank or shop. Or you may get a line saying something like ‘moderate access’ or ‘access not perfect but reasonable’. This is baffling to the most street-wise individual.
Yet lots of theatres offer carer tickets for free, accessible shows, audio description, wheelchair stair lifts in listed buildings where renovation is prohibited for lifts. This is to be applauded!
Yet, it is rare to know any of this support exists without having to trawl through phone menus and check out-of-date websites. Sometimes, you can only discover when you arrive somewhere and then it might be too late. Staff often have no idea, and you know your nightmare has begun when you’re told, ‘I’ll check with management’ and ‘get back to you’. It’s all very well-meaning but is it helpful?
Tell us and we’ll be there…
Many wonderful organisations will offer quiet corners for people struggling with all kinds of invisible disabilities such as migraine, recovering from a diabetic ‘hypo’ or ‘hyper’ to sensory difficulty or touch tours for visually impaired or blind people. Some health clubs will look after your assistance dog whilst you work out, some venues have BSL trained staff to communicate with Deaf people. In lots of retail outlets, staff have had disability awareness training and are very good at knowing how to work around you. This is very welcome and appreciated.
Yet, it is so rare to see any kind of promotion on marketing material or even on shop windows which would attract more people and their families and friends inside.
If you provide tactile maps to help people with visual impairments to find their way around, disability toilets and ramped interiors, not just at the entrance, let us know, we’d love to come and shop! Ensure there is information on your website stating what you offer with images of people with disabilities so we feel reflected on your website.
Where are you located?
When describing where you are located think about accessibility. Where is the nearest step free tube station? Do you have disability parking spaces? Try to be specific with directions for example proceed out of the tube and turn left and then the second left, you will find us your right. A large red building with large glass doors.
Inclusion works for all, lets start telling people what you offer be loud and proud about accessibility.
For more information on disability awareness training visit: https://visualisetrainingandconsultancy.com/training/disability-awareness-training/