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What Access Means To Me

An accessible society for everyone is something that I feel is a necessity. It's the gateway to a more inclusive world for all. There was most certainly much division within all walks of life before the pandemic struck. Now we are starting to come out of it. I see signs within the disabled community and social media that the way we live our lives. Some actions are more of a hindrance to people, such as not only wheelchair users but people with other disabilities. For example, with places like pubs and restaurants having to use outside spaces such as pavements and walkways to sit customers, it is a restriction for wheelchair users who need those spaces left clear to enable them to get around safely and constructively. In my opinion, working from home has its advantages, but there are certain disadvantages to it too. The benefits are that there is no need to commute, causing people less stress. Still, there are the disadvantages, such as feeling out of touch or alone, that colleague interaction could in some cases be a significant lifeline and stop disabled from becoming lonely, left behind, or even forgotten about altogether. It is these little things that make all the difference.

Access for me is about having a right to an active social life, which we all deserve. I get that people have different disabilities, and the severity may mean you cannot get around or go out. Still, everybody has a right to a social life if you choose to have one, whether non-disabled, have a physical disability, have a learning disability, or have a hidden disability. There is nothing wrong with a disabled person going for a well-deserved shopping trip, a meal, or a friendly drink with friends or even a holiday with a carer, or as people prefer to call them today, personal assistants. By having more accessible hospitality venues and giving more disabled people the freedom to integrate into society, the educational scope for this is excellent, especially long-term. People are curious. Even more, kids are. I understand not everyone with a disability wants to be the centre of attention or be asked personal questions. Having more people with disabilities being a visible part of our society will encourage more people to learn about all the different kinds of disabilities and interact with them to make them feel more included whether they have a physical disability, a learning disability, or a hidden disability. Education and inclusion are vital.

We need to zone in from a positive and collaborative perspective and think about ways to make our lives much more accessible, such as our pavements, pathways, parks, and green spaces, especially our hospitality spaces and venues. For example, on occasions whilst visiting nightlife venues with friends, I have had to assess the situation upon arrival and sometimes go to a different venue to everybody else with somebody willing to accompany me. Purely because of the other venue where everybody else is at after seeing the number of steps or different heights of the floor, I get a little anxious about tripping over. Whereas with a bit of initiative by that particular venue, maybe (if possible and practical within the venue's layout, of course), installing accessible aids such as more even ramps, walkways and hand-rails, I could have joined everyone at the preferred venue. To others, this may come across as a little pessimistic. Still, to someone with a disability or who has limited mobility or uses a wheelchair, these tiny changes could be the difference between becoming more included at more venues or being left out or left behind altogether. It is these slight adjustments that make a difference. Being a little more mindful of this will make my night and many other people's night out all that more memorable.

Yes, there are differences and limitations to each venue on how we can make them more accessible. For example, some buildings and spaces are many years old. However, these differences and limitations do not mean we cannot become more accessible minded, get more accessibility aids into venues, train staff on dealing with the different types of disabilities and interact with different spectrums and scales of disability. Then we move onto music, putting on sensory and movement events for deaf and blind people. Admittedly, these few elements that I have touched upon are just a few of the adjustments we can make. By any means, I am no expert on how to make our venues accessible, and I can only give my personal feelings on this subject. 'Everybody deserves access to an active social life no matter what.'

Gavin Clifton


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