Transcript: Disabled Access Day 2016

Kiki McDonald, founder of Disabled Access Day, speaks to Able Radio's Michael McEwan about Disabled Access Day and associated events and activities.

Podcast Episode: Disabled Access Day 2016

Category: Disability 



What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.

MM - Michael McEwan
KM - Kiki McDonald

MM Now on I’m joined via Skype by the cofounder of Disabled Access Day Kiki McDonald and she’s going to tell us about what is Disability Access Day. So basically, welcome. The first question I would like to ask is, what is Disabled Access Day?

KM So Disabled Access Day is a day where venues are putting on events and incentives to encourage disabled people to come and try them out. So, it’s a day for trying out new places but it’s really to get people talking about disabled access and having more conversations about as well. I don’t know if it’s worth me mentioning maybe where it all came about from. It’s only the second year of Disabled Access Day. It was really a pilot last year but it came from an idea from wheelchair user Paul Ralph who, he had gone along to an event his local bus company had set up. He was pretty nervous about trying out the buses when they were in normal service and it was really sort of rush hour etc and this event gave him a chance to try out, try the bus when it was stationary, ask the questions he had, all that sort of stuff and as a result he became a regular bus user and his idea was, “Wouldn’t it be great if you had a national event, a national day where there were loads of these types of events going on across the country and we get to test out or try out lots of different types of venues.” And that was his idea. He was a Ewan’s guide reviewer so he came to us with that idea and we just loved it so we piloted it last year in January and it was a great success but in a small way and we’ve made it quite a lot bigger this year and moved it to March because it’s a warmer time of the year. One bit of feedback was that January was a bit cold. So, it’s really only the second year that this is going on, so still quite early but we’ve got a lot happening. There’s a lot happening on the 12th March.

MM So basically my next question is … was there a need for this day do you think?

KM Yes, absolutely and I think one thing people have said to us is, “Surely every day should be Disabled Access Day?” And absolutely every day should be Disabled Access Day but I think the reality of it is, every day isn’t that easy if you have got access requirements and I think we all know that a lot more needs to be done in terms of improving access across the country. We felt it would be great to have a day where you can showcase and start to celebrate some of the places that do have good access and just to get people having more conversations about access. I think one of the things that we’ve come across is that I think there’s a lot of fear and nervousness about access both from a venues perspective and from an individual’s perspective and one thing I think having a day where people can start to focus on it, maybe venues can prepare ahead of it. We find quite a lot of venues have done quite a bit of training ahead and having a day to focus on has really focused their attention on it but having a day where they feel they can ask more questions to disabled people as well and what things are working and not working for them access wise. I think another thing is, certainly from my perspective any, my brother’s a disability user and we certainly found we tended to go to the same places over and over again. We probably went to the same four or five places because we knew they had suitable access for us and there was a lot of, we had a lot of nervousness trying out a new place. So, the idea for us for a Disabled Access Day where new venues we’ve never been to before are essentially saying, “Come and try us out” is really quite nice and exciting and nice that there’s something happening that’s something positive about disabled access rather than it’s often a lot of negativity and nervousness I think we read about in the press.

MM So whereabouts is Disabled Access Day taking part? Is it only open to people in Scotland or is it a UK wide event?

KM Yes, absolutely everywhere Michael. So, there are events taking place as far as Vancouver, I think is the farthest one away, so Vancouver, they are taking part but most of the events are taking part across the UK. There is a lot happening in Edinburgh and Glasgow. There is stuff happening across the country. There’s also a lot happening down south. There’s, a lot of the arts venues particularly in London are taking part and there is some activity, some events happening in Europe as well. So, there’s really, there’s, all the details are on website where you can search your local area where you’re going to be on the day and find out what events are happening. So, it’s a whole range of events from tiny venues taking part, that might be a cafe offering some kind of incentive from coffee to the National Theatre and the National Library in Scotland are also, big venues like that are also taking part. So, a whole range of venues across the country taking part both locally and nationally. Then there’s a few national chains taking part as well. So, Cafe Nero are offering everybody a free hot drink or coffee on the day. So, do sign up and take them up on that, and John Lewis are taking part. There are a number of chains taking part to. So, it’s really quite exciting.

MM So who is this day aimed at then? I know it’s people with mobility issues but also people in wheelchairs as well?

KM Yes, absolutely. So, it’s aimed at, it’s for disabled people and also carers and disabled people’s friends, family members. I think one thing I think we always think people forget is that disabled people don’t go out on their own. You know they go out with friends and family members just like anybody else so it’s a huge section of society that we think people aren’t really maybe focusing enough on and I think, so it’s for individuals in that sense and in the broader sense but it’s also for the venues to think about and try and take part. Put on an event or encourage people to come and try you out. Start thinking about your access ahead of Disabled Access Day and for us I think one of the things we’re trying to get across is that I think a lot of people have looked at disabled access as nice to do from perhaps a charitable or CSR angle but I think we’re trying to get across that, you know there are 12 million disabled people in the UK. There is 6 ½ million carers. There are all the friends and family members of disabled people that go out with them. There are so many people that have access issues who wouldn’t consider themselves disabled people. You know it’s a huge section of society that’s impacted and it’s trying to get the point across that this is just a huge section of the population that venues should be thinking about from a business perspective that there’s a lot of people to, that they should be thinking about not just from a nice to do but from a business perspective too.

MM So what, give us a wee insight into what venues are taking part this year. So what is on this year at your event?

KM So a whole range of things. So, the Botanics in Edinburgh are doing a mass of events where actually a couple of the bus companies are taking part so you come and try stuff out, but they’re doing a lot of walks and seed planting to, many of the galleries and arts venues are taking part. I know many venues in Glasgow are taking part. The Speedway are running a big event which (… unclear) and yes, a whole range of things across… We’re trying to, trying not to spread myself too thinly on the day myself actually Michael because there’s too many things I want to go to. There is, Dance Ways are putting on a Ceilidh in the afternoon of Saturday. There’s all sorts of different things happening at local theatres so a massive range of events going on I know maybe in different parts of the country. Say there are some events happening in Fife. The Homelands Trust are putting on a whole range of activities and inviting people to come and try those out. Crathie up in the north east are taking part inviting people to come and have a look round them who do lovely self-catering cottages. So, it really is a whole range from arts to sports venues to accommodation providers to service providers taking part. People who are listening who are a venue or a business or an organisation there still is time to take part. Do get in touch with us at the team either through the website or give us a call. There is still time to take part if you’d like to even in a sort of, in a small way this year and do something bigger next year. And I think that would probably go for individuals as well. The website has a “What’s on” section to have a look at on the website but please do give us a call in the office as well if people would rather speak to someone rather than search through the website and try to point people to events that are happening in their area.

MM So how can people get involved on the day?

KM Either going to one of the events that are taking place but I think it is also still in the spirit of disabled access. Just go and try out somewhere new and if you can then write a review on Ewan’s guide to tell people what it was like afterwards, all better, but really just getting as many disabled people out and about on the day trying out a different place and giving some feedback to people on what the access was like is really the spirit of the day. We’d also love people to get involved just on social media talking about access. What are their experiences of access? Where’s good, where could be better? The more people that take part and get involved the bigger the impact they will have in terms of people talking and thinking about access. So, either take part in an event, go try somewhere new or if you can’t do that put a tweet out or something on Facebook to chat about access and let’s get as many people talking about it as possible.

MM So what’s the feedback been like since last year apart from the weather?

KM Apart from the weather? Universally everybody wanted it to happen again. It really was quite remarkable particularly from the venue side and I think we’ve been quite taken aback how much appetite there is from a venue perspective and I think, I think there’s a lot of negative press about disabled access and often rightly so, but I think a lot of people maybe underestimate how many venues do want to have good access and get involved. I think there’s often a lot of apprehension and nervousness from the venue side on access, “Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing enough? Am I going to say the right thing, etc etc?” And we hope that the day we’ve given people resources and venue packs and we hope people help on that. We hope the day is people starting on that sort of journey so to speak on accessibility of starting to think about their access and taking part in that. So, we’re really quite surprised how many venues want to get involved and I think that’s great and can only be a good thing that encourages more venues to think about their access and take part as well. So, and from an individual’s perspective I think people just wanted more to be going on in their areas and that’s just because it was the first year and we were doing it all with just a few extra hours in the office. So, it’s a sort of voluntary thing that’s been going on. We’re just backed by a charity, so we’ve not got much, not had much resource in terms of manners of doing it but, so I think individuals wanted more things going on, on the day and hopefully, well there are a lot going on this year but hopefully there’ll be a lot more next year as it takes off and more people know about it. The one other bit of feedback I think we got was, some people said, “How come I didn’t know about this?” And again, that’s really hard for us because we’re just a wee team. So, the more people, a lot of people wanted to take part but didn’t know it was happening. So, the more people that people can tell about it, the better really, would be great.

MM Yes, I think that’s a thing isn’t it, when we go to like different venues for a night out and stuff like that, you don’t really think about access for people in wheelchairs or mobility issues but I mean it’s a good event that you’re happening. Last question then would be, this is where you can promote your website and your Facebook and your Twitter. So on you go, you can, the floor’s all yours so what’s the website address?

KM Well the website address is, and the Twitter handle is accessday and we also have Facebook and a very active one on both Facebook and Twitter and if people can on the day also please do write a review on Ewan’s guide, the disabled access review website about what your experiences are of on the day. Was it good? Could it be better? All those reviews go back to the venues to tell them what their access was like so that they can do something about it, or, you know, maybe it was just brilliant and they can get a bit of praise as well. So, yes access day on Twitter and Facebook and Ewan’s guide are on Facebook and Twitter too and we would love to hear people’s views on access as well.

MM Okay well thanks for talking to us and good luck on the day.

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