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Disabled Actress Samantha Renke - What does accessibility mean to you?

Hey AccessAble readers, my name is Samantha Renke, I’m an actress, activist and all round loud northern bird currently living in central London. I was born with a rare genetic condition Osteogenesis Imperfecta or more commonly known as Brittle Bones, I’ve never known life without a wheelchair.

Samantha Renke

With almost 14 million disabled people living in the UK and as the fastest growing minority group, creating a world that is more accessible has never been more prevalent. Not to mention that excluding the disabled people from the consumer market is a big financial mistake as disabled people have a combined spending power of £249 billion.

Under the Equality Act 2010 all service provides are required to ensure that disabled people can access their service, and that pre-emptive reasonable adjustment” must be made to allow this. However, what may be reasonable for me as a wheelchair user may not for someone that has a visual impairment or learning disability.

Accessibility can mean so many things to so many different disabled people, that’s why it’s vital to listen to a cross section of disabled people to fully meet their access needs.

Take the following analogy, if a shop has implemented a ramp, then as a wheelchair user I can gain access, yet once inside the store there is not lower till or accessible changing room then the store really isn’t accessible to me. Likewise if the store has a ramp, lower till and accessible changing room yet hasn’t educated staff on how to assist disabled customers or plays loud music in store this could isolate those with autism for someone with a visual impairment who could ask a staff member to describe the items on sale.

AccessAble identifies that everyone’s needs are so different yet equally important.

“ We know everyone's accessibility needs are different, which is why having detailed, accurate information is so important. It's why we send our trained surveyors to check out every single place in person and why the information we collect has all been decided by our user community.’

AccessAble understand that what's accessible for one person is not always accessible to someone else. That's why and the free AccessAble App give you the detail, so you can decide if somewhere is right for you. Each Detailed Access Guide is 100% facts, figures and photographs. There is lots of information as they know that everyone needs to know something different.

For me unfortunately the word access or accessibility has always come with negative connotations. I’ve lost count of the times the words, it’s not accessible, you can’t come in, you can’t go or sorry no lift have been muttered to me.  I’ve always associated the word with me being a burden, friends having to change birthday plans to find a more accessible venue, missing out on being part of the school play as the stage wasn’t accessible or having to wet my pants because no accessible toilet was available.

‘Accessibility’ has also meant I’ve become a very organised, super vigilant perceptive risk assessor. Before going anywhere I would research as much as I could on the destination as not knowing how accessible a place was beforehand would leave me with anxiety and stress, in some cases a lack of information meant I wouldn’t even leave my home and miss out on social, work activities.

I know what access means to me as a wheelchair user but what does accessibility mean to others within the disabled community? 

“accessible” means when something meets your needs as a disabled person or a person with limited mobility and when a service is adapted to give you an equal treatment to those who don’t have a disability - Emily Davison - visually impaired

“So, I feel that the "minimum requirement" doesn't cut it anymore. The government needs to become more aware and empathetic that the likes of "placing a ramp, or installing a hand rail" isn't good enough. They need to be the responsible body who ensures the governance of organisations is up to scratch by implementing more than sufficient access for all."

"To me, accessibility means the flow of movement to any place hassle free, and without any barriers whatsoever!” - Elena Canty - fulltime wheelchair user

“It means not having to say ‘I’ll have to check’ when one of my children asks if we can do something in the holidays. Breaks my heart that 9 times out of 10 it’s either a flat no or a time-limited visit due to facilities available. Twitter - ElleBea30

Being able to go out with no #limitations  or #restrictions not having to rely on others to help being able to remain #independent in my own right and not having others give you the side eye if you have to ask for help of which I find difficult to do. Twitter - rachmg2077

It is clear that accessibility means a whole lot more than physical alterations such as fitting a ramp or hearing loops. It’s about understanding and valuing the lives of the disabled community, inclusive access doesn’t only help the disabled community but it also helps society as a whole. Discrimination is not inevitable and disabled people need to be at the forefront of that change.

Don’t forget to download the free AccessAble App from the Apple Store or Google Play Store. The App has Detailed Access Guides to over 70,000 venues across the UK, giving you factual, reliable accessibility information in your pocket to use on the go.


Actress & Disability Campaigner