How do you know if a venue is accessible?
1st August 2017
This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.
Those with less mobility spend an inordinate amount of time planning any trip beyond their home. From public transport to hotel rooms, every aspect can present challenges. Even a quick stop at the coffee shop can create difficulties if the doors are not wide enough or they do not have step free access.
Unfortunately even today there is enormous discrepancy in what different venues mean by the word accessible. While for some this may just include a slightly larger bathroom with grab handles, others have invested in an accessible disability bathroom. While all this information should be online, it often isn’t and this can make life near impossible and expensive phone bills.
To make things easier, experts and those in the industry have given their opinions on what accessible means and where you can find the information.
Old buildings and towns are often not equipped to deal with modern mobility aids such as wheelchairs or mobility scooters. According to the Irish Wheelchair Association, doorways should be at least 80 cm wide to accommodate those who need the widest doorway – crutch users and those on mobility scooters.
The Equality Act in 2010 imposes new builds to conform to the Disability Discrimination act of 1995, however with buildings older than 2010 (of which there are many), this may not be the case. Pizza Express often choose to house their restaurants in old buildings in keeping with the town’s character. Though effort is made by the company to make them as accessible as possible, this differs from restaurant to restaurant, you should contact the restaurant you are visiting for further details on door widths.
Speaking to the Royal Albert Hall about the difficulties they overcome due to the nature of the building, Julia Robinson, head of Venue Planning was open about their efforts:
“For an older building like the Royal Albert Hall it’s important to try to describe arrangements as accurately as possible, so visitors know what to expect. Our online Access Guide provides detailed information about the building and our facilities and services, and our Box Office team will be happy to answer any queries about specific requirements.
We continue to work to adapt our Victorian architecture and the services we provide, both front of house and backstage so we can improve accessibility and enhance the experience for disabled visitors. For example, we have recently refurbished one of our principal dressing rooms to provide an accessible shower-room for performers and we are working in partnership with the BBC Proms and BBC National Orchestra of Wales to host the first Relaxed Prom as part of the 2017 BBC Proms season.”
Step Free Access
This could be a problem depending on the limitations of your mobility. If a couple of steps are not a hindrance then many places are accessible, if however, even the slightest step proves a problem, such as if you are reliant on a mobility scooter, then this is definitely worth investigating.
While many venues with upstairs facilities will have lifts, there are often steps to get from street level into the building itself. These can cause as much difficulty as a flight of steps if you are not prepared. Calling a venue beforehand can allow them to prepare, sourcing a ramp to make the area accessible.
If there is next to no information, a quick check on google maps will often reveal any steps out the front of a venue, though this will not reveal difficulties inside.
Not all bathroom facilities are made equal and a regular complaint, especially in the service industry is that disabled facilities are often used as storage. This can cause difficulty in accessing them as the area leading up to it or the bathroom itself is full of detritus.
A person’s needs determine which facilities are appropriate for them. While a grab rail, lowered sink and a little extra space may be enough for some people, for those requiring the use of a hoist and the assistance of two carers, this will not be enough. The latter is in the realms of a changing place facility, and while there are currently 863 in the UK, they are not a standard facility or evenly spread. Determining what sort of facility is available can be difficult, especially when they are denoted with a disabled toilet facility.
This often means you have to call to discover exactly what they mean by a disabled facility and whether it is appropriate for you.
Staying either in the UK or abroad can be difficult if you have specific requirements and while planning a holiday can be difficult, ensuring a hotel is accessible, it can often involve an online search. While bespoke and boutique hotels and B&B’s will often readily list their facilities or be happy to discuss them over the phone, finding information for a single location of a hotel chain can pose a problem.
Speaking to the Marriott Hotels, they gave an insight on where people can find key information online. As Marriott has hotels across the globe and in every major city in the UK, having access to information on their facilities can open many more locations for both staycations and holidays abroad:
“On the individual hotel’s main page, the key amenities section has two prominent buttons to click: ‘All Hotel Details’ and ‘Accessibility.’ Both areas include information on whether or not the hotel has accessible rooms on offer and if it does, then more information is included. The room details information displayed for each available rate includes information about accessibility features available for that particular room type to help customers with disabilities select the most appropriate type of room.”
Availability of Information
While most of this information should be readily available online, it is often not. Just as everybody’s mobility and disability is different, so are their requirements, however this is not reflected by the information available. What venues should do is include specifics, such as door widths and bathroom facilities, available so that everyone can quickly ascertain if they are appropriate.
For large chains, they refrain from posting information for each establishment on their site, instead they redirect you to the local facilities and a telephone number. While this does reduce the amount of information people have to trawl through, and allows any questions to be answered in one single conversation, it is labouring under the assumption that staff at the other end of the phone have received adequate training. If this is not the case, it can often extend the process.