Opening doors to new experiences and better access

Disability Access Day 2015 - Euan's Guide founder Euan MacDonald and his sister Kiki at the Royal Yacht Britannia. Pic credit: VisitScotland
Disability Access Day 2015 - Euan's Guide founder Euan MacDonald and his sister Kiki at the Royal Yacht Britannia. Pic credit: VisitScotland

How many disabled people would revisit a venue that has good accessibility?

According to a survey carried out by Euan’s Guide, an astounding 98 per cent.

The guide is a Scotland-based disabled access review website and app, which has been making a big difference to the lives of disabled people in Scotland – and the rest of the UK – since it was launched two years ago.

And such is the importance of raising awareness of disabled access, a national event is being staged for the second consecutive year to actively promote the issue.

Disabled Access Day is back today (March 12); it aims to encourage disabled people, their friends and families to visit somewhere new.

More than 200 independent venues across the UK – and around 40 in Scotland including the Scottish Parliament and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh – have signed up to support the initiative, welcoming disabled visitors, their friends and families.

Euan MacDonald, co-founder of EuansGuide.com, the main sponsor of Disabled Access Day, said: “The success of last year’s event has given us a firm foundation to build on.

“Not only are we raising awareness of disabled access but also showcasing the venues with good accessibility and highlighting the commercial value held by the UK’s 12 million disabled people and their family, friends and carers.”

Scottish venues taking part last year included Ability Falkirk, Lothian Buses, Homelands Trust Fife, the Scottish Disability Equality Forum, West Dunbartonshire Council, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and the Scottish Parliament.

VisitScotland’s accessible tourism programme is also lending its support to Disabled Access Day.

Chris McCoy, who is head of the programme, said: “I would encourage businesses to sign up to take part as we look to make this country a fully accessible destination.

“Last year we worked in partnership with the Royal Yacht Britannia and a number of assistance dog charities to demonstrate the invaluable support these amazing animals provide.

“We are looking forward to supporting an equally successful event at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh this year.”

Disabled Access Day 2016 aims to build on the success of the 2015 event, which saw more than 250 companies and venues from across the UK and Europe taking part, attracting over 1000 disabled people and their families.

The idea for the initiative came from Paul Ralph, a powerchair user, who had been on a ‘try it out day’ with a local bus company.

Prior to this, Paul had been wary of using that form of public transport.

He said: “I had not used the bus network in my home town because I was unsure how the ramp operated, how ticketing worked and if my powerchair would fit.

“I attended a demonstration organised by the local bus company with the opportunity to explore a stationary bus.

“Additional staff were on hand to explain the process of getting on and off safely.

“There was also ample time to become more familiar with the layout of the bus and with what you need to know as a wheelchair using passenger.

“I’m now a frequent bus user and chatting with friends, I thought how great it would be if there were similar initiatives, including some more informal events, happening across the country on one specific day.

“The idea of encouraging disabled people to also try something new appeared and Disabled Access Day was ultimately launched.”

Kiki MacDonald, co-founder of Euan’s Guide, was inspired by the idea and its potential to increase the numbers of conversations between venues and disabled people, as well as raising the profile of disabled access.

She said: “We were delighted to get backing from many venues, organisations and businesses and, in particular, their appetite to improve their own accessibility and get more feedback from disabled people.

“The first Disabled Access Day was a pilot, achieved with very little resource but lots of drive to improve disabled access, showcase some of the good practice and try out some new places.

“Given the limited resources, we were blown away by the results and hope 2016 will be much bigger.”

One of the national organisations which supported Disabled Access Day last year is Caffè Nero and it is backing the initiative once again.

A spokesman for the coffee house chain said: “We welcomed the feedback which highlighted stores that had great accessibility, along with others where change was required.

“We took on board all of the response and we now look forward to seeing lots of new visitors on Disabled Access Day this month.”

For more information visit the website www.disabledaccessday.com

Scottish venues taking part

Disabled Access Day 2016, now in its second year, is taking place today (March 12). In Scotland, visitors can head to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh from 10am to 4pm to explore the Glasshouses for free, join guided walks and have a go at seed sowing in the Botanics. The National Museum of Scotland will be holding its first tours developed for visually impaired people, from 11am to 2pm. It will include a touch tour of objects and will cover two galleries. Booking is recommended.

Other venues taking part in Edinburgh include Royal Yacht Britannia, Lauriston Castle, City Art Centre, Dovecot Studios, Fruitmarket Gallery, Traverse Theatre and Festival Theatre. In Glasgow the Centre for Contemporary Arts is taking part along with The Experience and Glasgow Film Theatre. Meanwhile, in Fife The Homelands Trust at the Paxton Centre, Leven is inviting people to join them on March 12 from 10.30am to 3pm to take a look around their accessible accommodation and attend a talk about Accessible Fife. Also there will be a trial run of a special gallery touch and descriptive tour at The Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther between 11.30am and 3.30pm. There will also be object handling in the temporary exhibition gallery.

Visit: www.disabledaccessday.com/event-search.