We were thrilled to be featured on the BBC, in a news feature by BBC North West about how the project is helping businesses across the Fylde to open up their businesses to the Purple Pound.
Katherine, who runs Mary Tom and Friends in Fleetwood, was one of the business owners who featured in the programme. Katherine had an access guide last year, which she found very helpful and enabled her to understand some of the barriers potentially faced by disabled people when visiting her business.
Like many individual businesses, Katherine’s gift shop is small and so some stock has to be placed in narrow aisles. But, she made small changes within the shop in terms of the layout and understood the impact it may have on a customer with disabilities.
“What was really great about the access guide is that it wasn’t critical of me at all and Martin, the access champion, was really lovely and helpful. He explained some of the barriers people face – which I had not at all considered, probably like most people, and he made some suggestions in a really friendly way.
“I knew it was something that I should do and I was surprised at how easy and with no cost how it can be to make changes and people do return.
“It did make a difference and even though I sometimes had to place products in places that may cause an issue for people because my shop is small, I just let them know when they come in and ask if I can assist them, move things for them when they come in, or offer to pass them goods. It really is about customer service.”
Katherine is now having another access guide on her new premises on the Esplanade in Fleetwood and is keen to find out more about how she can ensure social distancing measures at her business do not alienate and are accessible.
Mick of Burbage Holiday Apartments in Bispham, has created a series of accessible apartments, which include features such as large wet rooms and light switches at a lower level for people who use wheelchairs.
“We did it because we see the importance of providing accommodation for people with disabilities. People want to come to Blackpool and we are fully booked all year around, and the same people want to come back year after year, so it makes business sense.”
We were joined during the BBC filming by Miranda Casey, who is deaf; Steph Syson, who is blind and her guide dog Darcy; and Kath Phillips, who uses an electric wheelchair.
Miranda, Steph and Kath all highlighted how simple measures, such as customer service and the vital question “can I help you?” were hugely important to them as customers.
Often the businesses we visit can’t make big and expensive changes, but something as low cost as a ramp or a handrail can make a big difference, while most people with disabilities say that attitude goes a long, long way.
Kath says that having to ask is embarrassing. “If business owners simply say ‘can I help’ it makes a big difference.”
She adds: “If I feel comfortable with a business and I feel valued and not made to feel disabled I will return again and again.”
It’s a comment that we often hear at Access Fylde Coast.
Steph, who abseiled down Blackpool Tower when it turned 100, agrees too. “Communicating with people is really important,” she says.
Access Fylde Coast has provided British Sign Language to major events across the Fylde Coast in a bid to breakdown the barriers to events for both visitors and residents who are blind and visually impaired.
Miranda, who lives in Blackpool and lip reads, says: “I went to the Lytham light switch on because my daughter wanted to go. I didn’t see the point in going for me, as I can’t hear what is going on, but she wanted to and so I went.
“It was amazing, I saw the signer and thought ‘wow’. It made a really special memory for me as I was able to enjoy an event with my daughter.”