Topic of the Month: Accessibility

May 20, 2021
A computer keyboard with three highlighted keys with accessibility symbols such as wheelchair accessible and audio accessible

TMB! Lipstick! Perfume! And an Opinion!

Hello Readers. My name is Toni-Marie. For the purpose of this blog I will tell you a little bit about my disability as I feel it is relevant. I have had cerebral palsy quadriplegia and scoliosis of the spine since birth. This means that I am a full-time electric wheelchair user.

Toni-Marie guest blogger Revitalise

In terms of accessibility and just living my life to the very best of my ability, I have always prided myself on making my disability look as easy to cope with as possible. I suppose it is because it helps me to start each day on a positive note and so smiling is easier!

I choose never to define myself by my condition, instead preferring to tackle it with a ‘just going about my business’ approach. This stops me from allowing my own apprehension or anxiety to build up before I go out. I can then deal with any accessibility issues as and when they may arise.

I have a tremendous respect for disabled political activists who campaign at government level to make lawful and significant powerful changes to our society. There is definitely still an on-going need for their continued contribution to create a fully inclusive and accepting existence for disabled people. Personally, I have made a conscious choice to concentrate all my efforts on improving accessibility for my local community.

I try to always ensure that I approach any given accessibility issues with a smile, whilst at the same time maintaining a strong calm and dignified manner. In my opinion this leads to far more effective results.

A disabled door access button with 'Push to Open' written on it

I also try to think about people who are not able to communicate in the usual way, as well as people with a whole variety of different disabilities – hopefully helping to redefine accessibility for all. It is also important for me to have a strong sense of belonging. Let’s not forget the importance of legislation such as the disability discrimination act of 1995. There is no doubt that this was instrumental in paving the way for lawful positive change. Although even today I often question how effective it actually is. What it did do however, was provide disabled people with a platform to have a voice. At last there would be expectations, actions, solutions and accountability. Sadly, even with the very positive, on-going and still very much needed acknowledgement and recognition in this way, the fact remains that it is still notoriously difficult to change negative attitudes towards people with disabilities.

The only way to address negative attitudes is to carry on living your best life! Re-educating society only when you want to and always treating people how you wish to be treated. No matter how difficult this may be when faced with any kind of discrimination.

A female who uses a wheelchair enjoying a drink with a female friend in a local pub

My Five Top Tips To Improve Accessibility Are:

  1. Research and plan any outings, events, holidays and special occasions in advance if possible. Liaise with someone who is in a position to answer any questions that you may have. Making sure that all of your expectations and wishes can be met. Immerse yourself in what goes on in your local community, befriend local pubs, restaurants, bars, social clubs and help people to see your personality rather than your disability. It will then be so much easier to bring up issues that you may have directly with any service provider.
  2. In the case of an accessibility issue which prevents you from participating in an activity in a precise moment ask to speak to someone in authority. Always be polite, be clear about what the exact problem is and listen carefully to the response. Always look for the best possible outcome. Even if it requires you to compromise. Ask yourself if it is worth addressing an accessibility issue at the time. Obviously, accessibility is important no matter what. However, if by doing so in that moment – it would for example; ruin your birthday. Perhaps leave it for another day!
  3. If you are unable to communicate independently and require a carer/family member to help you to do this. Make sure that everyone is aware of your likes and dislikes, as well as the things that you love to do in your free time. Let people really get to know you so that they will instinctively know when you are unhappy about a situation – and then they can set about helping you to find the best way to deal with it.
  4. Never let anyone do nothing to address your issues with accessibility. If someone promises to do something within a certain time scale – politely chase them up and remind them that it is still outstanding.
  5. Always point out when accessibility is done well within any organisation. You never know, other organisations may take the lead and use the best example as a blueprint for the future.

Sheet of paper with sign launguage fingerspelling alphabet chart

Revitalise for me is the perfect example of fully accessible. It is the ideal setting with the emphasis being on creating the perfect holiday! Tailored to your individual needs and wishes. There are daily excursions to places of interest and evening entertainment, a licensed bar and a swimming pool is built within one such setting! Your choice is paramount and at the very core of the organisation. It is just so lovely that the focus is not on the everyday politics of disability such as appointments, assessments, meetings or service delivery at home. Instead it is about the complete holiday experience!

Revitalise provides a unique service that is very hard to find elsewhere! It is a world away from the reality of very structured, non-flexible care provision at home. The reason that I chose to go on holiday with them in the first place is because I would be given a true sense of freedom, choice and independence for a whole week! The focus is on how best to provide what it is that each individual needs, rather than defining everyone by their disability as purely a medical condition. I was also very confident that they would be able to meet all of my very specific care, equipment and medical needs. It also can provide a much-needed break for the carers and loved ones of those with disabilities. Providing them with peace of mind that their loved one will be well cared for whilst they themselves can have a rest.

With disability, travelling sometimes is not as easy or accessible as it should be. Revitalise has put together some useful accessible travel advice to take the hassle out of travelling. You can read these tips here.

Man in electric wheelchair with pink hair giving a thumbs up while sitting in the courtyard at Revitalise Jubilee Lodge

In the light of Coronavirus it has never been more important to strive for better! Those with disabilities cannot afford to just sit back and let life happen! Together we can and we must continue to create a fully inclusive world for everyone to enjoy!

Always see your ability in disability!

Thanks for reading!

Toni-Marie Barker

Disclaimer: The views expressed are the author’s own.

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