Accessible Spaces - Exploring access to public, leisure and event spaces

By Simon Wissink | 24/09/2018

To many, accessibility is often thought of as a way of solving immediate issues, whether they be in person or with respect to online channels. Yet, in reality, it is so much more than this; it encompasses a person's whole experience of using a product or service. Booking a flight online is just one step in the journey or visiting a live music venue can be a multi-layered process.

Our latest report, Accessible Spaces: Inclusion Beyond Screens, takes a look at access to public, leisure and event spaces. How do these organisations manage and respond to accessibility needs? How well informed are staff, in these spaces, of the diversity of access needs? For those with access needs, how easy is it to understand the system in place, so they can feel confident that they will enjoy the experience?

Alongside our report, we interviewed people with differing experiences and invited them to share their stories. This included Gavin Neate, who has developed a range of inclusive products and services, including the Welcome app, to help people feel welcome and confident when they're out and about. We also spoke to Euan MacDonald about the excellent Euan's Guidewhich lists reviews of places to visit and venues submitted by over two-thousand disabled people, all over the UK and beyond. 

"I needed to know whether there would be an accessible loo, or a step-free entrance among other things before visiting everyday places such as cafes or the cinema." - Euan MacDonald

We also asked people for their video diaries, covering specific experiences of things like commuting, travelling in taxis or visiting restaurants. Claire Harvey M.B.E. is CEO of Diversity Role Models. She is a wheelchair user and captained the GB Sitting Volleyball Team in the London 2012 Paralympic Games before turning her attention to athletics. Here, she tells the story of her daily commute, including using the London buses, how the system works and how you really need to know the rules.

Molly Watt is an accessibility and usability consultant and inclusive technology evangelist. Living with a genetic condition called Usher syndrome, causing deafblindness, Molly is reliant on and benefits from, the use of mainstream assistive technology. In this video, Molly shares her experiences of visiting a restaurant with her guide dog and why she has less trust in using taxis.

"As soon as you say, 'Yes, I would like assistance', they assume you would like a person to come with a wheelchair" - Molly Watt

To understand further how well venues are catering for the 11 million people, living in the UK, with ranging abilities, our report details a mystery shopper exercise. We contacted over 130 venues with the two separate email enquiries, regarding requirements for a wheelchair user and a person with autism, respectively.

We were both heartened and disappointed by the responses we received. Whilst some venues were despondent about their offerings regarding accessibility needs, others were helpful, understanding and very amenable. Nevertheless, we believe there is more work to be done to offer truly inclusive customer service, and give reassurance to those who just want to go about their day, like everybody else. 

We'd love to hear your feedback and share more stories, if you'd like to be part of our #AccessibleSpaces campaign. We'd also be happy to talk if you think you need help with your own inclusive product or service design. 

Download the Accessible Spaces - inclusion beyond screens report (PDF) or get in touch if you'd like to know more.

Front cover of our accessible spaces report