Monday, 8 December 2014

Nothing new…

You might have seen/read in the news that a recent government funded report found that a number of high street shops and restaurants are not disabled friendly. Most people seemed to be appalled by the revelation but I am more dumbfounded that the findings shock the reporters as well as those in high office. It really is nothing new that access to certain places is poor and that businesses do not seem to care about disabled customers.

The Department for Work and Pensions asked my friends over at DisabledGo to run the audit on the government’s behalf. A group of researchers were sent to visit and assess 27,000 high street shops and 3,716 restaurants. Taheir findings were published last week (hence the media interest) but none of what was fed back surprised me. Some of the standout headlines from the report were:
·      One in five high street stores has no disabled access
·     A third of department stores do not have an accessible toilet.
·      Only 15% of retailers have hearing loops for the partially deaf.
·      Two in five food outlets have no accessible toilet,
·      23% of restaurants have menus in large print for the visually impaired and only 9% have hearing loops.

An issue that I have is people who do not know first hand how problematic something as simple as shopping can be for a disabled person overlook issues such as accessibility. They wrongly believe that legislation such as the Equality Act of 2010 are in place to stop discrimination but the report demonstrates that businesses flaunt this piece of law all the time. It obliges organisations to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people but they clearly don’t. It’s like saying because it is illegal to be racist, racism does not exist. However, we all know what is written in law differs greatly to reality.

The Minister for Disabled People Mark Harper responded to the findings by‘Calling on the retail and hospitality industry to look at what more they can do to better cater for disabled people’ but I’m not sure they’re bothered if Mr. Harper tells them off. I think the rules should be tougher such as on the spot fines if premises have one step but no portable ramp. That’s the only way businesses will listen and act. They obviously don’t care that there are roughly 12 million disabled people in Britain with an estimated spending power of £200bn so therefore penalties are needed.

Bye for now!

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