Ashley Smith-Hammond

Disabled Access Day is all about highlighting the accessibility of your venue, encouraging more people to visit and learning what you could do better. Antonia Lee-Bapty of Euan’s Guide was at October’s First Wednesday to talk about how arts and cultural venues can get involved, and why they should!

In 2015 over 250 venues and 1,000 disabled people, their friends and family took part in the first ever Disabled Access Day.  Antonia Lee – Bapty of Euan’s Guide joined us for October’s First Wednesday to support Culture Republic partners with ideas on how they can make the most of Disabled Access Day 2016.

The idea for Disabled Access Day came about after Paul Ralph’s positive experience of a ‘try it out’ day at his local bus company. Paul, a powerchair user and Euan’s Guide supporter, had previously avoided the bus network as he was unsure about the accessibility. The opportunity to test the facilities and speak to staff in an informal setting, however, means he is now a frequent bus user. Disabled Access Day aims to widen that experience to other places and facilities, helping people with access needs discover new activities and venues.

Some organisations may feel daunted by Disabled Access Day because they fear they aren’t doing enough and don’t want to make themselves vulnerable to criticism. Antonia explained, however, that the event is all about focusing on positives and increasing awareness. Here are a few reasons why you might want to get involved:

  • Showcase what you’re already doing. Antonia commented that arts organisations do a great job of making their spaces accessible to a range of audiences but they need to do more to let audiences know about it!
  • Learn from customer feedback. It is an opportunity to find out from personal experiences how you can improve access in your venues and to evaluate whether what you’re already doing works.
  • Build staff confidence. The session highlighted that access is as much about customer care as physical infrastructure. Disabled Access Day is a great reason to refresh staff training and focus on disabled access.
  • Prompt lasting changes in your organisation. Antonia gave the example of Borough Market in London. For Disabled Access Day 2015 they put on a BSL interpreted cooking demonstration. The customer feedback was so positive this is now a monthly event.
  • Reach new audiences. Between January and November 2013 the value of Accessible Tourism was £370 million. Disabled Access Day provides the opportunity to tap into this market, and increase the scope of people engaging with your work.

The next Disabled Access Day is taking place on 12 March 2016 and is free and open to everyone. If you’re an arts or cultural organisation you can join in.  See the Disabled Access Day website for more information.

The session also highlighted the many ways arts and cultural venues can make their spaces more accessible to disabled people. Read some top tips from Euan’s Guide in our related article.

The lunchtime learning continues next month when we’ll be in Edinburgh  looking at email marketing. First Wednesdays are exclusively available for Culture Republic partners: contact us for more information or to join our partner network.