The possibility of being able to get out and about post-lockdown is now upon us. We’re all ready for a change of scene and many people have firm ideas of where they’d like to visit first, whether it’s a coffee shop, museum, shops or getting on a train.
But for those with disabilities, it’s not as clear cut as turning up somewhere and getting on with the experience. So many venues and transport systems are inaccessible, even with a carer to assist, that it becomes a wasted and frustrated journey.
Euan’s Guide is a brilliant resource in the shape of a guide to venues with disabled access. It’s full of reviews by disabled people for disabled people and venues can be searched for by location – restaurants in Brighton, for example. It’s an ever-expanding resource where all users are encouraged to review places they’ve visited, reporting on their suitable amenities for others to use. The guide also features up-to-date news of virtual events that can be enjoyed until restrictions are fully lifted.
It was founded by Euan MacDonald who, after being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, found many places frustratingly inaccessible. Now a charity, the aim of Euan’s Guide is to “empower disabled people by providing information that will give confidence and choices for getting out and about.”
It is widely acknowledged that city centres and town planners have a long way to go in terms of accessibility. By 2050, it is estimated that 940 million people in the world will be living with a disability. That’s 15% of what will be roughly 6.25 billion total urban dwellers. Not a percentage that can be ignored or insufficiently accommodated for and an echo of the UN’s declaration that poor accessibility “presents a major challenge”.
It’s great to see local councils increasing the number of dropped kerbs, installing ramps instead of steps and investing in transport with lowered platforms. But a fully disabled-accessible town requires planning from the outset. In the meantime, there are some encouraging emerging solutions. The University of Washington has developed a map-based app for Seattle that allows pedestrians with limited mobility to plan accessible routes. And the UN has praised Singapore’s Building Construction Authority for its accessible “user-friendly built environment” that has been encouraged in new developments since 2007.
In London, only a quarter of the 270 underground stations and half of overground stations have step-free access, compared to all 91 of Washington DC’s subway stations. But in-roads are being made to improve communication and to help disabled people as far as is possible given logistical restrictions. For more inspiring stories of disabled-accessible living environments, take a look at this article from the Guardian. It includes a look at Chester, the first British city to win the European Commission’s Access City award in 2017. Perhaps that should go on your post-lockdown list of places to visit?