Do You Know Of Properties That Discriminate Against Disabled People?

By on January 8, 2013

There are all sorts of buildings that need to consider the benefits of undertaking an access audit. As a parent I feel it’s important to work on the facilities in schools and hospitals to make sure no additional problems are caused by poor facilities. When these types of buildings begin planning building work they really need to consider the needs of everyone that may enter the property and ensure that they comply with the Equality Act.

After visiting my daughters school to watch the Nativity Play I witnessed the problem with access first hand. One of the parents uses a wheelchair; they came to enjoy watching their child in the play and yet were faced with many problems before they could enter the school hall. The doorway we were all ushered towards was very small. Its design is like a single door that is split into two and only one of the doorways was open. The teacher at the door opened the second half and there the parent in the wheelchair faced another issue, steps leading up to the door that led to the hall.

Humiliation Could Have Been Avoided
There wasn’t another option of a ramp; instead a couple of the dads lifted her up the stairs, which was a bit worrying. There she faced yet another smaller than usual door but finally she was able to get into the hall and sit at the front to watch the show. On the way out I stopped and had a talk to her, she loved the show but told me she was so humiliated about the earlier entrance problems. The lovely lady then asked me to wait with her for everyone else to leave so she could get carried down the stairs without everyone watching.

Now I appreciate that schools don’t have much money and perhaps the school doesn’t plan on many people in wheelchairs using the building but in my eyes this isn’t good enough. What would happen if a child was injured or fell sick and had to come to school in a wheelchair. How about their current or future employees? Would they turn an excellent teacher away simply because they couldn’t get round the school?

There was a wider door that could be used to enter the first half of the school, the problem was it still led towards the steps leading up to the hall. The school has to think about making sufficient changes to ensure this problem doesn’t repeat itself.

Sadly This Event Wasn’t a One Off
The lady in the wheel chair told me she faced many similar situations all the time. The number of properties and businesses that are not prepared to welcome disabled people astounded her. She had even considered seeking legal action against her old employer and a couple of local services but was yet to go ahead with it. It’s in her rights, she is protected by the Equality Act and I told her she shouldn’t feel bad about making a fuss, after all some people need a kick to show them what improvements need to be made.

I spoke to the head teacher after the incident and made my concerns known. The head informed me that they were looking to make improvements to the entrances to the school over the next couple of years. They are in talks with the school governors, access consultants and architects and it is hoped that this type of problem will never happen again once the work is completed.

If you are aware of any buildings that are difficult to access it is worth making your thoughts known. A push in the right direction will improve facilities and services for us all and put an end to this type of discrimination.

Aki Hashimoto is a budding writer who enjoys raising awareness about the importance of an access audit for schools, the NHS and businesses in the UK and abroad.

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