We are supposed to be living in an enlightened age where we are inclusive of anyone with a disability. And there are legal requirements governing this. However, the reality is often quite different.
Recently the Equality and Human Rights Commission criticised Premier League clubs for their slow progress in catering for the needs of football fans with disabilities. As a sportsman, Huw Chance, an ex-wheelchair rugby player for Wales in both sevens and league, has experience of the inadequacies of disability provision.
“On the pitch you’re competing at a very tough, professional level,” he says. “Sadly, off the pitch, you’re facing the typical limitations in terms of facilities including not being able to get your wheelchair into the changing room.”
Outside the Mainstream
What makes somewhere accessible? The solution should not be restricted to actual physical provision because, ultimately, disability is a people issue.
“What actually matters to me is how I’m treated as a customer,” Huw explains, “more than whether the access is the best.”
Disability awareness is what is going to make a key difference to a customer, so that when they are experiencing customer service, they are treated appropriately.
“It’s a cultural thing,” Huw points out, “where disability awareness should actually be mainstream.”
Alongside disability awareness at the customer service level, should there be a more comprehensive involvement of the disabled end user when it comes to the design and installation of accessible facilities?
Does Your Disability Provision Fail to Put People First?
Huw now runs a property consultancy, FLOMP, in Bristol and, from experience, comments “Frequently, disabled provision simply focuses on mobility when it can involve other things such as visual impairment and mental health.”
“This is why, architecturally, elements such as texture and lighting, as well as sound, should all come into play,” Huw observes. “However, it’s more than ticking boxes and following building regulations. Facilities need to work in practical terms and the best way to guarantee this is to involve potential users, early on in the process.”
Disability awareness needs to filter down through a number of different areas of professional and business life in order to achieve the kind of mainstream acceptance and adoption that Huw talks about.
“Would able-bodied people put up with second-rate facilities? Proper, inclusive consideration means being able to cater for all. It’s about empathy. Focus on the user, and in that way you design, build and act for everybody”
HR Aspects values Huw Chance’s contribution to this article.