I hear that today (12th March 2016) is Disabled Access Day. The day encourages disabled people to visit somewhere new (like a cinema, coffee shop or museum) and promotes the 200 venues who’ve signed up to showcase their accessibility.
Raising awareness is important. I could retire if I had a quid for every time someone said “woah, I had no idea how inaccessible the world was until we became mates” or “all these years I’ve wrongly assumed that places had to be accessible”. Awareness is great, but it doesn’t make any difference unless it leads to action.
I know money’s tight and ‘my people’ have spent their lives having their expectations ‘managed’ on how of much of life we’re included in. But inclusion doesn’t always cost money. So I’ve made a list of ten things everyone can do for free that will make a positive impact on this “Disabled Access Day”.
- Check your nearest accessible toilet and untie any alarm cords. Yes, they may get caught in clothing, but they’re designed to be in reach of someone who has fallen and is lying injured on the floor.
- Sign a petition for more Changing Places loos. Thousands of disabled people (like me) can’t use bog standard disabled bogs. In my case, I need a hoist to lift me from my chair onto the loo. There is one of these in every 100m2.
- If you work in an office, ask the front of house staff if there is a hearing loop for visitors with hearing aids, where is it and when was it last serviced?
- If you see a giant ‘A board’ obstructing most of the pavement, politely ask the relevant business to consider moving it so visually-impaired pedestrians aren't treated like contestants on Total Wipeout.
- If you hear someone ‘tut’ at a person coming out of an accessible toilet because they don’t ‘look’ disabled, inform them that just because a person’s not using a wheelchair or doesn’t have a limp, it doesn’t mean they are not disabled (as Caroline explains).
- Buy me a gin and slimline tonic next time you see me.
- Pick your favourite bar or café and check their website for access information. If there’s nothing there, email them and remind them to put something clear and honest on there. I spend half my life trawling through websites for info that doesn't exist.
- Check the wheelchair space on the train and politely ask everyone in the carriage if the owners of the luggage could kindly move their bags.
- Do tell a disabled person they’re hot, cool or an asshole (as applicable). Do not tell them they’re brave or inspirational because it’s condescending and unnecessary.
- If you see a car parked in an accessible bay without displaying a blue badge, slash the tyres.
I hope you find this helpful. I’d like to say thank you, on this Disabled Access Day, to all my non-disabled friends and colleagues who are wonderful ambassadors and allies in the inclusion movement. Thank you, too, to all our clients who ask us to help their staff practice 21st century thinking on these issues.
- Number six is technically not free but it’s been a long day.
- Relaaaax, number ten is a joke. Yeah, it's totally a joke...