Today, i took part in a training day with a company called
Which is an accessibility checker so that disabled people can look up particular venues to see how accessible they are. Disabled go works with counscels who pay to be a part of Disabled go. There are 4 counscels who are signed up here in Northern Ireland, but they want to get it rolled out to more counscel areas in the future. The counscels which have it already are Ards and North Down, Antrim and Newtownabbey, Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavan and Belfast city counscel. Once the counscel has signed up to the scheme, they will request for places to be surveyed.
There are two types of access guide that Disabled go provide. One is called a “detailed access guide” or a DAG for short. This would be a venue such as a restaurant or hotel where you are likely to spend a considderable ammount of time in. The other type of guide is called a “key access review” or a KAR for short. This would be a venue like a bank, where you aren’t likely to spend as much time in but still need to know if it is accessible or not. Unlike other companies, Disabled go does not make recommendations for venues to be accessible, rather they will provide guideance if it is a detailed access guide, for example, but it is mainly so that disabled people can make their own choices as to whether they will use a particular venue or not. For example if there is a step in to the venue, the website will list the fact that there is a step to get in to the building, but on’t recommend for it to be changed.
The day started with a visit to City hall, where we met the rest of the participants and the facilatators from disabled go. First of all, they presented a presentation all about the history of Disabled go and why it was developed. It was developed in 2000, after a wheelchair user found himself unable to access many venues after becoming disabled. The presentation then went on to explain what the difference between a detailed access guide and a key access review was. Not only had the presentation been emailed to me beforehand, but there were also brialle copies and print copies available. The questions we would ask venues were also available in braille. I was very impressed with this.
The information that is collected is very thorough. It goes in to details such as what the outside access is like, are there steps, how many steps, is there a ramp, is it portable, the angle of the ramp etc. It even asks what type of door there is and how wide it is. Once inside, it goes in to yet more detail such as did the staff receive disability equality training, is there an accessible toilet, is there a hearing loop, are there seats available and many more questions besides. Whilst on the subject of accessible toilets, someone in the group pointed out that if you’re visually impaired, you aren’t necessarily going to want to feel around to find everything in the accessible toilet and that things aren’t where you would think in every one. I pointed out a device called a
Which is a device that some places accross the water can install with bespoke audio instructions as to where everything is in an accessible toilet. That hasn’t come over here yet, but i am interested when it does, as it would solve so many problems in locating things in the toilet. I also asked the question about
And if they would be included in the detailed access guides, which they are as for some people, they cannot use the standard accessible toilet.
The presentation also focused on why you may not be allowed to go in to a venue and ask about what they had available, such as seating, and this was because a shop may be busy or may be worried about people coming in and asking questions about their venue. This is a rare occurance apparently though which is always good to hear.
Once the presentation was finished, we were told about what else would be happening throughout the day and asked to fill in a feedback form on the day so far.
After lunch, it was time to hit the streets armed with the information we needed to create a key access review for some shops in Victoria square. We were split up in to two groups and each facilatator led a group. We visited 5 shopes in total. They kept it very short to accommadate peoples’ needs, and didn’t want people to get too tired doing it. Everywhere we went were very happy for us to ask questions about the venue. The only place which had a hearing loop was the Apple store, whilst Claires Accessories and a place called Boo avenue had racks that could be wheeled out of the way if a wheelchair user for example couldn’t get down an aisle and Boo avenue even had an accessible fitting room. Photos were also taken of the steps etc if a shop had any and how wide the aisles were.
Once we had finished, we had a chat about the day and were given a £10 gift voucher for our time. I would like to thank Disabled go for inviting us along and i really enjoyed the day. It is amazing how many things you notice when you have your accessibility head on. I hope more counscels sign up to the scheme and i look foward to hopefully doing more with them in the future.