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UK legislation on accessibility is failing disabled delegates

Architects need to consider human factor of disabled access and facilities

Pictured:Rachel Belliere-Wilson

The majority of Britain's facilities for disabled delegates and event participants are still not good enough, despite years of government legislation. That’s the view of BI Worldwide operations director Rachel Belliere-Wilson, who is herself disabled.

While the Equality Act 2010 has absorbed legislation formerly included in the Disability Discrimination Act, there are too many exceptions to truly cover the needs of the disabled, she argues. “The UK’s antiquated transportation system – mainline trains and London Underground in particular – make it extremely challenging for those with disability to get across the capital while hotels and event venues have often been designed by architects who have no proper understanding of the physiological needs of the disabled.”  

The word ‘reasonable’ is used too often, according to Brian Seaman, who carries out inspections of buildings for Tourism for All.   Meanwhile Grade One and Two listed buildings are also excluded from adjusting their infrastructure to provide accessibility and inclusivity to all.  “But it can be done if there is the willingness and desire to do it”, says Rachel. “One Great George Street is a great example of a Grade II listed building which has carried out outstanding adaptation whilst retaining the integrity of the building. 

“The frustration for any disabled traveller is that in general, this sector of population is not demanding.  All they are asking for is to be treated inclusively – to be provided with access to facilities in just the same way as everyone else. There are places and companies that do it really well.  But the majority, unfortunately, do it badly or simply don’t bother at all.”

BI Worldwide – one of the UK’s biggest event management agencies - has carried out its own internal training sessions to alert its operations team to the needs of disabled participants and to highlight how to identify problems before they arise. Inspection visits, says Belliere-Wilson, become completely different when viewed through the eyes of a disabled delegate. Now she says: “The subject needs to be put back on the agenda because budgets have been reduced since the Paralympics 2012. Inclusivity should be at the heart of all venue development and every management team but it isn’t.”

Have you experienced poor disabled access or design? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

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