Disability blogger and campaigner Kerry Thompson, who has Muscular Dystrophy and uses a wheelchair, tells us why accessibility is so important to her and others.
How much do we all know about disabled access? I know why disabled access is hugely important to me - I have Muscular Dystrophy, and use a powered wheelchair, which means I need access to a Changing Places toilet because I need a hoist, and to get into buildings I need ramps or level access. I use the AccessAble website and App to find venues with these facilities.
My needs are very different from someone who uses a walking stick or someone with a visual impairment; so what does disabled access mean to others? Whilst many of us may be aware that the level of accessibility in some venues could be better, most don’t know the actual impact that this has on disabled people and their families and friends.
With approximately 13.9 million disabled people living in the UK, 8% are children, 19% are working-age adults and 45% are of pension age.
I decided to ask other disabled people what disabled access means to them. I spoke to other wheelchair users, people with visual impairments, people with invisible disabilities and parents of disabled children. A common answer from everyone was that what’s most important is inclusion to feel like they’re not being left out just because of their access needs.
One mum told me that not having the right access for her child, like ramps, and access to toilets prevents her from being a ‘proper‘ mum. Someone with an invisible disability said that they don’t always want to explain why they need to use an accessible toilet because it’s embarrassing, faced with question after question of why gives them anxiety. Finding the right property was important for one person to be able to have their dad visit. Without accessibility, they are stuck at home when they want to live their life like other teenagers.
A lack of accessibility is sometimes down to a lack of knowledge and understanding. Without experiencing the everyday struggle that disabled people face first hand it’s not an urgency to make significant changes. Everything from education, transport, employment even housing if disabled access isn’t there we’re unable to access and enjoy it.
When thinking about accessibility it’s not just about disabled people themselves. It’s about their families, friends, carers, and PAs as well. Venues adjusting the environment to more inclusive access can include the simplest of measures, with consideration for all impairments. This could be hearing loops, Braille, larger text documents, facilities for assistance dogs, stoma friendly toilets, ramps or Changing Places toilets. With the number of disabled people growing and everyone living longer, it’s now more important than ever to address accessibility.
So why is disabled access so important? It’s having the freedom to live life like everyone else, it’s about being included, to be able to see family and friends, it’s about having the choice, not the choice being made for us, it’s about being equal. It’s about reducing levels of anxiety, depression, and loneliness.