You may have seen a lot of publicity recently over the 25th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act. It has got a lot of attention and many people talking candidly about their lives and experiences, and rightly so.
A lot has changed over the last 25 years but nowhere near enough. No one should ever be treated like a lesser rate citizen, ever. Not in the workplace, not in education and certainly not whilst living everyday life.
In the coming weeks we will be delving a lot more into this and hearing what actually is important to disabled people, how we can all have a clearer understanding of this and start to make a real change.
We have an exciting video series – which will highlight the views of disabled people, and just what others can do to help.
Our previous video series, highlighting the importance of businesses in the tourism sector offering features from disability wet rooms and changing places, to “can I help you” attitudes, signage, queue-busters to a pen and paper to communicate, was a resounding success with more than 350,000 views on Facebook alone.
It’s like disability is still a bit taboo. People don’t want to say something to someone for fear of offending them – but by not saying, the irony is that it can be offensive.
Our AFC project set out 18 months ago – a pilot project and the first of its kind in the UK – to help break down the barriers and perceptions of disability. To help businesses to see how important it was, and how beneficial it is to be accessible, but also to drive forward change in positive experiences encountered by disabled people.
It was never going to be an easy feat. Often the perception is that it costs too much to be accessible and that disabled people are labelled as moaning for people not getting it right. We hope we have turned some of these myths on their heads and opened the conversation on the Fylde Coast around disability.
WHAT WE HAVE ACHIEVED SO FAR:
There’s now 500-plus businesses on the Fylde Coast – including in key tourist hotspots – who have made small, but crucially important changes to their businesses to provide a better experience for disabled people, their families and their carers.
From having a pen and paper handy to communicate with deaf customers, to providing seats for elderly and those with mobility issues, to installing handrails and ramps and decluttering aisles for wheelchair users and blind and visually impaired customers.
We set out with a desire to ensure that disabled visitors to the Fylde Coast felt a warm welcome and with almost 250 businesses taking in part in our free disability awareness training, it means that so many more business owners and their staff now feel more comfortable helping disabled people and confidently catering for their needs.
98% said their awareness of practical support for people with disabilities had significantly improved thanks to the training we provided.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, businesses, who didn’t have time to do our disability awareness training, took the time to do it and the feedback is that they are glad they did.
98% of them saying their confidence in how to adapt their business to meet the needs of people with disabilities had significantly improved, with some already having plans as to what they would change.
It’s great to hear that after we helped to enhance 13 major events across Blackpool and the Fylde Coast – including British Sign Language for artists at the Blackpool Light Switch On and alongside Kylie Minogue and Rod Stewart at Lytham Festival and accessible toilets with hoisting equipment – that event organisers are now continuing with these important inclusive measures next year and in the years to come.
On top of helping businesses and events become more accessible, we also made events more inclusive. We flew in world-renowned talents ILL Abilities dance crew, who hail from Holland to Chile, Mexico and Korea, to support Kylie Minogue at Lytham Festival to bringing comedians Lost Voice Guy, Robert White, Jamie MacDonald and Aaron Symonds, the famed Paraorchestra and Evelyn Glennie – all performers with disabilities – to main stages across the Fylde Coast.
It was great to see that we were able to turn perceptions on their head – with hundreds of people working in shops, restaurants, accommodation and attractions feeling comfortable conversing with disabled people and asking “ can I help” to business owners realising it often costs nothing to be accessible and give your business a boost.
But, there is still a long way to go. So let’s keep the conversation open – it’s time to make headway and build on the DDA.