A little about me for context, I’m Holly, an ambulatory wheelchair user. I need to use a wheelchair every time I leave the house; I have a manual wheelchair with a power add on to provide me with more independence. My conditions include Hypermobility Syndrome, Functional Bowel Disease and POTS. When I’m out my accessibility requirements include ramp/step-free access, lift access, nearby accessible toilet and Blue Badge parking close to my destination. I always thought of my accessibility needs to be pretty ‘standard or simple’ as a disabled person when I first started using a wheelchair but experience has taught me otherwise. AccessAble also taught me that my standard isn’t the same as someone else’s.
Accessibility Means Something Different to Everyone
Accessibility or ‘Fully Accessible’ are words that are thrown around far too often. Frequently without any understanding for what the word accessibility or fully accessible mean.
As a disabled person, I am here to tell you that accessibility is not a one size fits all phrase. Accessibility means something different to each individual. If a venue states it’s accessible does that mean it’s accessible to wheelchair users? Users of a hearing loop system? Someone with a visual impairment? All three?
When I first discovered the AccessAble website I decided to scroll through the Accessibility Symbols Guide. I thought to myself ‘this won’t take long it’ll just be a few symbols’. I was absolutely amazed when I discovered there were 32 different symbols.
Read More: AccessAble Accessibility Symbols Guide
Making Informed Choices About Accessibility
AccessAble had identified 32 different needs that a disabled person may have. As a disabled person I had never seen such detail on accessibility needs; let alone in a handy Access Guide. These Guides enable an individual to make an informed decision as to whether a venue is accessible to them or not. After all what use it is to have someone else decide a venue is accessible to you without knowing your accessibility requirements?
This is why the work AccessAble do is desperately needed for the disabled community.
Through reading the accessibility symbols I was learning that accessibility needs are far more complex than the ‘standard’ ramp or no ramp that society has taught us. I began to think about why each access need was so important and who that could be of benefit to. Not only was AccessAble educating me but it was prompting me to think about the needs of other disabled people; which has also enabled me to be a better advocate and ally to the disability community.
What Accessible Means to Me
The term accessible to me often means: level access, ramped access, accessible toilet. However, the term accessible could also mean braille menu available, audio description, large-print text, no background music, dementia friendly, changing places, facilities for assistance dogs and so much more.
I would highly recommend reading through the accessibility symbols whether you are non-disabled or disabled to educate yourself on the needs of others. I often ask myself questions such as: ‘If I were visually impaired would I want access to braille menus, audio descriptions etc.?’ My answer is always yes, I have the right to the same information and experiences as a non-disabled person.
Using AccessAble’s Access Guides
Once you have read the accessibility symbols it gives you the ability to scroll through AccessAble’s Access Guides quicker and with more understanding. I am always reassured when I see an accessibility symbol relevant to my requirements on an Access Guide to a venue I want to visit. The brilliant thing about AccessAble is that I know that step-free means step-free and every venue they survey is done so in the same way.
Read More: How do I use AccessAble?
Don’t forget to take a look at the AccessAble website for yourself or download their App for free.
Read More: Holly’s blog The World in my Words
Read More: Why is accessibility so important?