We are at the very beginning of an accessibility revolution; companies are slowly beginning to consider those with additional needs within their designs (some more so than others!) However, a misconception could be that inclusive principles can only be applied to the design and engineering industries. There are many things everyone can do in their day to day lives, regardless of their profession to make their community more inclusive for all who reside in it.
The concept of inclusivity is in its infancy; if implemented it would have a major impact on the lives of people with disabilities.
This topic (however controversial it may seem, given I am an Inclusive Designer(!)) is an important one to broach. It is one in which many people admit to a lack of understanding in.
This first inclusify post has been co-written by Ali Lalani, a former Paralympian in Team GB and wheelchair user from London who advocates disability awareness. He wants to help me get the word out about how people can change small things in their day to day lives to be more inclusive.
1. Pavement Parking
Something I see on a frequent basis is cars parked up on a pavement. While a person with no mobility restrictions could easily pass by on the grass verge or squeeze past the car, a wheelchair user, mobility scooter user and a parent with a pram cannot. The pavement is blocked to them and they may have to cross the (potentially busy) road, with a restricted view just to pass the parked car, which presents a very real danger. What if there isn’t a drop curb for 100m before that car? The individual is massively inconvenienced by this seemingly small offence.
Another thing to be mindful of is blue badge parking and only using accessible bays if you are entitled to. I will be the first to admit that bay parking can be difficult. Sometimes it would be great to have a bigger space to park in, but imagine if you were a blue badge holder who has just driven all the way to a location just to find that all the accessible parking bays have been taken. This would potentially restrict the individual from physically being able to get out of their car, especially if they use some kind of mobility aid, the extra space either side is crucial!
2. Going the 'extra mile'
A misconception of being inclusive is that you need to go the extra mile (this is something I will revisit regularly). Quite often, a solution for people with additional needs will be appropriate for anyone. It may even make the process easier for everyone involved. I realise this is a difficult concept to take out of context, so to the left is a beautifully illustrated example!
3. Wheelchair Accessible Taxis
It's late, you stumble out of the train station (perhaps after a few drinks!) and you see the taxi rank up ahead. The first taxi in the queue is an accessible cab, you jump in, thinking nothing of it, it's just a cab, right?
Accessible cabs are few and far between; once I tried to book on behalf of someone and was informed that the next available bookable accessible cab was in 16 hours time. If you have the option, leave the accessible cabs to those who require them. Imagine how difficult it would be to be refused such a basic thing that most take for granted, it not only causes frustration but also can ruin plans.
4. Accessible bathrooms
An obvious one, but important to mention. It might be tempting to just run into the accessible toilet when you are out in public, especially if there is a long queue for the bathroom, but please be mindful that someone may come along who needs to use this bathroom who does not have the option to wait or use the standard public facilities.
5. Let’s talk ramps
Imagine if your friends have arranged a big night out together, you’d spent hours getting ready and were excited for a fun evening. You arrive at the venue but there is no way of getting into the building, your night has been ruined by this obstacle which has an easy solution (had it been considered beforehand!).
If you own a business which requires visitors or employees to come in and out of the building, it is essential that it is accessible, or have things put in place to ensure that the building is as accessible as possible to as many people as possible.
Unless it is very old, your building is likely to adhere to building accessibility regulations. However, ticking the boxes for this does not necessarily mean your establishment is accessible.
Step free access to the building is so crucial. Not only will you lose custom to those who cannot enter, you may lose business from family and friends of people with limited mobility through word of mouth. Aside from the fact that you may lose business, it is also important to consider that the individual who cannot gain access is now disabled by their environment.
If the building does not have a ramp, a final (much less ideal) alternative would be investing in a portable ramp. Ramps can admittedly be pricey, but remember that it is an investment and you will be building your business up by allowing the maximum amount of people in. It is of mutual benefit. Lastly, while it is important to have a ramp, it is also important to offer stepped access as some individuals will struggle with walking up the incline of a ramp.
and that concludes my very first Inclusify blog post! How did I do?!
If you have any questions about how to be more inclusive in your day to day life, or would like to make any suggestions (I welcome any feedback!) Please don't hesitate to get in touch through the contact section of my website.