accessibility

So You Advertise As Accessible?

So, You’re Accessible? – Many companies and retailers advertise as being “Accessible” but what does this actually mean? Does it tell me if you have any steps in and around your premises? No! Does it tell me how high your counters are? No! So the fact you are advertising yourself as “Accessible”, gives me and other disabled people NO information whatsoever! Not only that, but you are probably also in breach of the Equality Act 2010!

Claiming to be Accessible Doesn’t Mean You Are Accessible!

So, You’re Accessible? – As a company or retailer, advertising as being “accessible” and then giving no further information, means you are not being as inclusive as you would like to think! Just because I CAN enter your premises, does NOT make you an accessible company.

Your interpretation of accessibility will most probably be completely different to those of a disabled person! There are many things you need to have in place before you can warrant yourself the title of being an “Accessible” company.

I am a full-time wheelchair user and my accessibility needs would differ from those who say are deaf or blind, I can not climb steps but a deaf person would most likely manage them. My arms are very weak and I can’t raise them up past my midriff, therefore using card machines on a counter is extremely difficult but yet, again a deaf or blind person would most probably find it easier to use.

Being Accessible

So, You're Accessible - Equality Act 2010 & Buildings Regulation compliant Disabled Toilet
Equality Act 2010 & Buildings Regulation compliant Disabled Toilet

Disabled toilets, do you have a unisex one as well as male/female ones? Some disabled people have carers who are of the opposite sex. They would need to use a unisex toilet.

Changing rooms, the above would also apply. The amount of times my husband has been refused to come in a changing room with me is shocking, to say the least.

When shopping for new bras in a very well known high street chain. My husband couldn’t come in with me as it was a female changing room. When asked if there were any unisex changing room, I was told no. I asked where the disabled changing room was, it was in the female changing room section.

When I argued the point that he was my carer and I could not try on the bras without his help and the fact I shouldn’t be expected to have a complete stranger help me with such intimate form of help, especially when they are at fault for not providing a unisex changing room, my husband was eventually allowed in to help me.

The other side of the coin is companies that do have these amenities but then use them for other purposes. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have been to restaurants, clothing shops and found the changing room or disabled toilet being used as a storage room. Using these amenities outside of its intended purpose is again, NOT being inclusive. I STILL can’t use them!! So yes, having these features may make you accessible but you ARE NOT USABLE!!

So What Is Accessible?

When a disabled person wishes to visit your premises, we need to know quite a few things to allow our visit to be as hassle-free as possible. I don’t want to read/hear the words “Yes, we are accessible”, only to turn up and find that actually, you’re not accessible at all. We need to know things like the following (this is only a fraction of the information we may need):

  • Are you level throughout your premises?
  • Do you have any steps? If so, how many and how high (most electric wheelchair users can cope with one small step)
  • Do you have a unisex disabled toilet?
  • Are your changing rooms unisex? Do you have a disabled changing room?
  • Restaurants, how high are your tables, I need to know if my knees will go under the table as I am in quite a high wheelchair?
  • Do you supply large print menus?
  • Hearing loops?
  • Height of your customer counters?
  • Hotels, do you offer wet rooms?
  • How high is the sink in your wet room?
  • Does the shower/toilet have grab rails, if so, where are they and are they horizontal/vertical?
  • Do you have lifts?
  • Can you supply letters in braille?

Accessibility Fail

When accessibility fails on a mega scale, it is very distressing, soul-destroying and extremely frustrating to say the very least. My husband booked a hotel for a surprise long weekend in Cornwall. He phoned the hotel first to check out its accessibility, they answered all his questions and assured him all would be fine.

We turned up at the hotel only to find a list of accessibility failures:

  • There was a flight of steps leading up to the entrance. No problem said the hotel, just use the trades entrance round the back!
  • Our room was upstairs, the lift was a very tight squeeze, if I had my electric chair I have now, I wouldn’t have got in!
  • A step down the middle of the hallway leading to our room, the step was over 5 inches high
  • My manual wheelchair would not fit through the bathroom door, again, not a problem said the hotel, we’ll remove the door for you!
  • The disabled bathroom was NOT a wet room, it had a bath with a glass door across it, I had to get my husband to help me shuffle across the floor from the bathroom door entrance to the toilet so I could use the damn thing!
  • No room on either side of the bed to park my wheelchair.
  • The patio doors leading to the garden area had a very high step.
  • When in the restaurant, hubby had to get my food at the buffet as the room was so small. Hubby would have to go see what was available, come back and tell me, then go back to fetch it!

Not How To Resolve Issues

When things do go wrong and you get a complaint, here is a prime example of how NOT to deal with it!

To add insult to injury, when we complained to the hotel manager, he was rude, obnoxious and accused us of lying only to get a refund. I told him to check with the staff member who offered to take the bathroom door off for us. He still wasn’t having it.

I told him he could stick his refund, that was not what this was about. The hotel was advertising as being “wheelchair Accessible” when clearly it didn’t even come close.

How To Improve

  1. Make sure you are actually accessible BEFORE advertising as so.
  2. If you are unsure of the accessibility features you should have (some are business dependant), ask!! There are many of us only too happy to advise you on accessibility needs, Some do it as a business!!
  3. Give disabled people more information. Have a section on your website explaining how you are accessible.
  4. If something is out of order, like lifts, let us know!

It really isn’t that difficult to be Equality Act 2010 compliant!!

If you liked my blog, leave a comment below. If you would like to work with me, or if there is anything you would like me to blog about, don’t hesitate to Contact Me.

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Argos self checkout machines too high

Argos say “Good height for wheelchair users”.

26/11/18 – Argos self-checkout machines too high for wheelchair users.

Argos self checkout machines too high

So I emailed Argos regarding their recently installed self-checkout machines.

This is what Argos had to say,”

I know your concern was about the height of the Quick Pay Kiosks. Having investigated further, it seems that the design of the kiosks is historic and none of the current designers know where the guidance was consulted at the time.

We are however aiming to ensure that new designs are more inclusive and I am working closely with the Store Format teams to ensure moving forward this is the case. We are also trialling other technology where you can browse for products and pay on the same terminal and these are more accessible. However, there will always be aspects of Argos stores that are not accessible for every customer, and when it occurs, our colleagues are always happy to assist (which is of course something Argos is required to do under the Equality Act 2010)”.

Hmm, she says the new terminals where you can browse and pay (presumably the ones pictured above) are more accessible.  Not quite sure about that!

I’m in a pretty high seated wheelchair and you can see below, the touchscreens are too high for me to use, it is above my head!  For a disabled person like myself who is unable to raise their arms past chest level and doesn’t have very good dexterity, this becomes an impossible task.  Now, remember, you have to pump in numbers or the name of the item you wish to browse/pay for on this screen.  Gonna take some time I reckon!  Yes indeed, staff may be required to assist under the EA 2010 but try finding one in the Hounslow branch! 

Cazbarr sat next to Argos self checkout machines

Argos said in a further email, replying to my email with a few suggestions:

“I went around one of our stores on Friday in a wheelchair (before your email came through) just to try to get a view of the barriers in store for wheelchair users, albeit it was the Liverpool Belle Vale store that has just been refitted with the Pay at Browse device. While it is a good height for a wheelchair user, the screen while lower than the kiosk that you mentioned, may well present an issue to a user who can’t reach higher than chest level. We will need to give some thought to how we make sure a wheelchair user can get close enough to the screen e.g. get their knees under the desk and still have the screen and the pay point within easy reach”.

Now I’m really not sure what machines she is talking about as it seems she has mentioned several.  As she mentioned the Liverpool branch has just been refitted with the new machines, I can only assume she is indeed talking about the ones pictured above.  Now, this being the case, how on earth can it be concluded these are a good height for wheelchairs??  You would definitely need to reach up past your head.  

The plus side is, Argos haven’t completely disregarded my comments or even my suggestions.  They do say they will give some thought on how to improve things, this is definitely a plus for Argos.

So now the waiting game and in the meantime, I still can’t go shopping independently!!!! 

Any questions, please don’t hesitate to Contact Me.

***UPDATE*** 27/11/19 – Argos self-checkout machines too high for wheelchair users.

Lowered counter with new argos self checkout machines

Argos have been true to their word!! They have indeed installed new LOWER machines in their Hounslow store. I was in the store last week and found these lowered machines to be much easier to use. Unfortunately, the machine at the lowered counter meant for wheelchair users wasn’t working. (I did report this).

The only slight issue is the fact if you’re not careful, you could very well hit your knees on the bottom of the machine. Other than that though, I say, good job Argos.

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Purple Tuesday £249 bn written in white against a purple square

Purple Tuesday, is it worth it?

14/11/18

Purple Tuesday has been and gone!  Did you go shopping?  Or did you stay at home because of the rumours that the DWP will be given CCTV footage so they can use it against claimants?  Yes, that’s right CCTV has in the past been given to the DWP for this purpose and guess who from?  Sainsbury’s!!

According to Disability News, they say:  

“Purple, the social enterprise formerly known as Essex Coalition of Disabled People, has secured the support of DWP for next week’s Purple Tuesday event but has denied that there is any “hidden agenda”.

Tuesday’s (13 November) event has also secured at least 14 high-profile partners, including retailers M&S, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Argos, and shopping centre owners such as intu and Landsec.

One of the partners, intu – which owns and runs shopping centres across the country – today (Thursday) refused to promise not to pass CCTV footage from the event to DWP, while Sainsbury’s has refused to answer questions.

But Disability Labour, which represents disabled people who are members of the Labour party – but is independent of the party itself – has called for a boycott of the event.

It has raised fears that those companies taking part could pass CCTV pictures from the day to DWP to use against disabled people who have made benefit claims.

It highlighted how Sainsbury’s has previously admitted that it occasionally passes CCTV pictures to DWP”.


Scary stuff that this can happen and the fact companies are willing to abuse their use of CCTV so willingly and feel they don’t have to “comment” on that fact, or be accountable!!!  I’m not going to debate about whether or not CCTV is good or bad but I never liked the fact that it was forced onto us, the public without consent or consultation.

So the purpose of Purple Tuesday was what exactly?  If you visit the Purple Tuesday website, this is what they say:  “The aim of Purple Tuesday is to make customer-facing businesses more aware of these opportunities and challenges and inspire them to make changes to improve the disabled customer experience over the long term”. Their slogan:  The UK’s first accessible shopping day!  Is in itself very confusing.  It suggests it is the very first day all retailers are going to be accessible!!  Eerr….No!  So straight away it is misleading.  PT was meant to highlight the difficulties disabled people have while out shopping and retailers were supposed to make a pledge to change at least one thing to help with accessibility.  Will it work?  I doubt that very much.  It was one day, on the quietest day of the shopping week.  Once the event is over, we will be forgotten again!  Over the next few days, I intend to go to my local high street & shopping centre and ask how they thought the event went.  I bet quite a lot of retailers will ask, what event was that?

A few retailers have been mentioned that are supporting PT but no real information regarding as to what these retailers plan to change or if they will be followed up to see if any changes have been made?  Has an audit been done to see what changes needed to be made to compare to any changes that may or may not have been done??

I hate to be so downhearted about this event because if it works, it will be a milestone movement for disabled people.  I, unfortunately, don’t believe this event will make the slightest change whatsoever.  I’ve had to contact the same company twice regarding access issues, so what does that tell you about how serious retailers are about accessibility?

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Instagram logo - Instagram ignores plea to be accessible for disabled users!

Instagram ignores pleas to be accessible to all!

My disability makes using a mobile phone difficult, so when a company has several versions of their app, (meaning computer, table and phone) but only has certain features available on the mobile version, it frustrates me!!  I want to use their product but I can’t due to inaccessibility.  What frustrates me even more, is when you try to contact said company and they blank you!!

Take Instagram, to be able to upload pictures to your account, you have to be using the mobile version.  There is nowhere that I can find to be able to do this on the computer version.  

Trying to find the contact us on their website is impossible. I’ve tried contacting Instagram via Twitter but seemingly I’ve faced a brick wall. So now I must look for other avenues, I feel this will not be an easy task, after all, I don’t want to come across as someone who is hounding Instagram.  Not yet anyway.

As I’m sure you already know, I know a little about web designing, therefore, I know it’s pretty normal procedure that all features stories articles etc are on the computer version, then you scale-down the amount of information available for the tablet version, again, this is done for the mobile version. some web designers do it the other way round, start with the mobile version and work up to the computer desktop version. either way, it is normal to find everything on the desktop version and less on a mobile version. So you can imagine my surprise and frustration when I find I can’t upload any pictures using the desktop version.

Now before anyone bangs on about how Instagram is an app and not a website, the mobile version may well be an app (not my area of expertise) but the desktop version is a website. Therefore, there is no reason this website cannot be fully accessible and inclusive.

So, it would seem that my next project, is to get Instagram to make their website more accessible for disabled people.

Worthwhile bookmarking my website if you would like to find out if I have managed to get Instagram to make their website more inclusive.

I will keep you up-to-date!!

UPDATE  21/7/18

It would seem Instagram doesn’t like my tweets saying they are ignoring my pleas to be more inclusive for disabled people.  Every time I post this image in my tweet with @instagram:

Instagram logo - text - Instagram ignores pleas to be accessible for disabled users!

It doesn’t show up on my profile page, feed page or any of my followers feed.  Yes, I have had this confirmed by one of my followers.  So, have Instagram found a way to have my tweets blocked?  Is it a glitch….(3 times over) I posted it 3 times and none are showing up??  I don’t know enough about Twitter to know if this is possible but by god, how sneaky it would be of them if this is what they have done……..Mind you, they are a Facebook company, so I suppose anything is possible hey!

Now, let’s be clear here, all my other tweets are showing up, just the ones where I @Instagram in my tweets, I have just put this to the test.  So this would suggest they have seen my post about not being accessible and this is their response…..Lovely!!!  Think it’s time to take the matter further now.

Have you had any issues? Let me know. Contact Me.

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