What accessibility means

A black background with "Accessibility" written on it in white text, below it reads: "making a system usable for everyone, regardless of their needs" also in white text. Below that are blue images of a hand, an eye, an ear and an upper and lowercase A arranged in a horizontal line (in that order)

This post is something a little different to my usual posts. In this one I’ll be discussing what accessibility means and more personally what it means for me.

Now, when I talk about what accessibility means, I’m not talking about a definition of accessibility or access. I’m talking about the different forms that access can take depending on who it is that requires access to somewhere or something. I guess this is a more in-depth explanation of why I put that little “this is my view of venue access and access is different for everyone” disclaimer at the start of my venue access reviews.

Access means different things for different people. For some it’s ramps to allow step free access into a building and/or Changing Places toilets to allow them to safely use the toilet while out and about, for others it’s ( complete, correct) captions or sign language interpreters so they can understand what’s being said, and for others it’s Braille or tactile paving to allow them to understand and navigate the world. What’s required will depend on what condition the person has, and they WILL know what access adaptations they require.

It’s not just the buildings someone is trying to enter that might have access adaptations, sometimes access includes bringing a mobility aid such as a wheelchair (or crutch, or cane, or walking frame or mobility scooter). This might not be an aid that person every time you see them (because #AmbulatoryWheelchairUsersExist) but it’s something that helps them access the world at that time. It’s something that gives them the freedom to do what they want, it’s not something they’re “bound” to or something to pity them for (more on disability and language here and here).

As well as access adaptations to buildings, and mobility aids, access may also come from the people we bring with us. This is one I’m guilty of forgetting but, whether it’s a guide or a PA or even just a friend to give you the confidence to get out and experience the world. Having someone there to support you can make accessing somewhere that little bit easier.

It must also be said that sometimes what is considered accessible can vary for one person, and this is where my personal experience of accessibility comes in. As those of you who have read my UFC Liverpool blog will know, the B & B we stayed in for that trip could not be considered fully wheelchair accessible (and I knew that), but it was accessible enough for the trip we were taking.   There are three factors I take into account when deciding how accessible the place I’m staying needs to be for a trip: Firstly, whether I’m travelling solo or with friends or family because if I have someone there to help me I can stay somewhere with steps into the building or a less accessible (i.e. non wet room) bathroom.

The second is what mobility aid(s) I’ll be using on the trip because if I HAVE to use a certain mobility aid, such as my electric wheelchair, there are a limited number of places I would be to stay However, I can sometimes be more flexible and  change what mobility aid(s) I use to suit where I’m staying if there’s a specific place I want to stay or somewhere that’s been recommended.

The final factor is how long I’m staying in a place, certain situations such as a less accessible (i.e. non wet room) bathroom may be something I can deal with for a short overnight or weekend stay but a fully accessible wet room bathroom would be necessary for longer stays, depending on the other two factors I already mentioned (who I’m travelling with and what mobility aid(s) I’m using).

I hope this post has enlightened you to the variety within “accessibility” as a whole and even within my own view of “accessibility”

Stay Invincible!

Em (Invincible Woman On Wheels)

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