Today i headed out to do an accesability oddit to see how a place was for visually impaired people. A company has been set up by a wheelchair user called
And part of their work involves doing access oddits for buildings and public attractions. They are going to do these oddits throughout the coming year. They are approaching local counscils and offering to carry out these oddets to make places more accessible and to make sure the right provisions are being provided.
Today we were heading up to Castle Gardens in Antrim. The head of the company picked me up from Antrim train station. Unfortunately Ushi wasn’t too keen to get in the car as it has a metal ramp to get up to it. The ramp then has to be raised to get in to the car so i’m not sure how to get ushi used to it if she ever has to be in the car again. I just reassured her and once she was in and out of the car she was grand but it was a new sensation for her.
One of the first things I noticed when we arrived was the amount of dog bowls scattered around. This wasn’t for guide dogs but it was just because it must be a popular spot for dog walkers. They have loads of outside taps too. There was a guy who was in a wheelchair who runs the company, a deaf guy who went to school with me, and me and Ushi. We all had different cryteria that had to be met like ramps and steps and such. The ramps and that had to be measured too.
We all started in the reception area and went our separate ways then. The first thing i asked for was provision for guide dogs such as water. I knew this was already available but it was so hot too that i wanted to make sure Ushi was well watered. I asked if they provided braille or large print and they said they didn’t but they had braille signs. I asked what would happen if someone with a visual impairment came on their own and would someone be able to guide them throughout the gardens. They said normally someone does a tour but if that wasn’t available then a member of staff would do it so i presume they would assist you.
We then headed off to look for some steps. It is all flat ground but some of it is paving stones. I thought they were grand but they would maybe need to be a little flatter.
There was a little road where lawnmorers and stuff would go but there was no tactile paving at it so i suggested that some would need to be put there. When you crossed that, you didn’t know you were on the opposite path, so i suggested some tactile paving be put there as well as a handrail to take you down the ramp that was there.
We walked across gravel at the bottom of the ramp which was quite easy to walk on. Normally some gravel is very hard on your feet even through your shoes. There was a little band stand in the middle which had four steps up to it. There was no handrails and no tactile markings to indicate the steps and the steps weren’t painted. This was noted that there should be tactile paving and handrails and the steps should be brightly painted. I said that i didn’t know if the tactile paving could be put at the bottom of the steps since it was gravel but deffinetly at the top of the steps.
Around the band stand was this decorative boarder. It was a paved area about a foot wide and it went right along the gardens. I asked was it consistent but it wasn’t. I thought maybe it was put in for people to follow but it wasn’t. It was nice and low and all, but i said it seemed pointless as it looked a bit like a small step. I know it was there to look nice, but i said they should have either one or the other meaning they should either have it all paved or gravel rather than this little bit. The counscil probably won’t like that suggestion though.
The ramp was measured that acompanied the steps up to the band stand and it was 8 degrees. Apparently it can’t be above 15 degrees as a standard so that was okay.
We went to the reception again after to look at stairs and lifts. There was another floor to the building but i’m not too sure what was on it. The lift buttons had braille on them, but the lift didn’t announce which floor you were on. While that is okay for only one floor, i pointed out that it might still be useful to have it announce the floors. The call button was a bit low, but i thought nothing of it. Apparently there is a standard for the call buttons to be a certain height too.
Even things like the door mats had to be looked at to make sure they wouldn’t become a trip hazzard.
We stopped off at the caffe after as we all needed a drink. We were sitting in like a courte yard. I pointed out that if you were in the main caffe they should maybe have someone to help you read the menu and stuff. That was noted too.
Finally we went out through the gift shop, but there is a little lip going up that would maybe need to be flattened a bit. The shop was quite spatious though.
Overall, there weren’t many issues from my point of view, but i think the wheelchair user found some. The findings will be put to the counscil to see if it can be changed at some point.
we headed back to the bus station from there. I must say that Antrim bus station seems very hard to get around. The train and bus station have been redeveloped in to one station. I could not find the counter to ask for assistance. Ushi ended up taking me to the toilets lol instead. Eventually we found a counter. I could hear someone behind it so i waited a while before knocking the window. I got no response so looked for another counter. Eventually someone answered, and once i got to the counter i did get assistance, but finding it was the problem.
When we got to Ballymena, we hit a snag. It was boiling today. I kept Ushi well watered today, but she kept showing me to every seat on the ballymena platform lol. We were then going to walk home but Ushi refused. So we went over to the bus station since it was quite a while before the next bus home. My sister and dad came to meet me so i didn’t have to get the bus. Ushi eventually walked home but i just walked her home and got guided. I was looking forward to going to yoga tonight, but i knew by the way Ushi was that it was just far too warm i think for her her to concentrate. I knew by the way she was that she wasn’t being stubborn either as normally she works so well.
It was a good day though and i look forward to helping Trip ability again in the future.