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Paralympian puts accessibility issues in the picture

Paralympian puts accessibility issues in the picture
10th January 2019 Ian Streets

Hot on the heels of Purple Tuesday, and at a time when regular reminders were going out to businesses to keep premises navigable and avoid Christmas clutter, Paralympian Hannah Cockroft MBE led a high-profile initiative to call for change.
Hannah joined forces with the Skipton Building Society, the first financial services provider to partner with AccessAble, which enables people to view detailed accessibility guides for a variety of their partners from hotels to shops and restaurants. Their research found that some scenarios which have been creating problems for disabled people for years are still far too common.
It’s worth pausing to look at Hannah’s own story, which is outlined at her website, and which tells how doctors predicted that she would never be able to walk after experiencing two cardiac arrests within 48 hours of being born and developing brain damage and deformity to her legs as a result.
Fast-forward to 2019 and Hannah is the proud holder of five Paralympic gold medals, 10 World Champion titles and a string of world records. But she’s also acutely aware of how difficult it can be for disabled people to go about their daily lives, and she made a film with the Skipton to highlight accessibility issues.
Subsequent media coverage reported that millions of British adults were unable to carry out basic daily tasks such as buying milk or posting a letter due to accessibility issues. A study of 2,000 adults with some form of mental or physical disability showed more than four in 10 were unable to visit their local shops because of barriers which prevented a comfortable shopping experience. For some 66 per cent polled, just being in the presence of other people can make shopping a struggle.
When asked if they had ever turned back home before completing their shopping, because they found the experience too stressful – 45 per cent of people in Yorkshire said yes, and 27 per cent said it has caused them to have a panic attack.
Particular difficulties identified as part of the survey included:
• 32% narrow shopping aisles
• 39% too many stairs
• 49% crowds of people
• 22% narrow doorways
• 21% changing rooms being too small
• 11% find music in stores is played too loud
Jacqui Bateson, Senior Proposition Manager, at Skipton Building Society said: “As a nation we are becoming more aware of the challenges and barriers disabled people face, but clearly there is still a long way to go, particularly on the high street.
“The study highlights the real need for businesses to take action, to address the needs of everyone, whether that’s someone who is a wheelchair user, a parent with a pram or someone who finds crowded or loud spaces distressing.
“The reality is that there are many people out there who need extra assistance when on the high street to make sure they have the best experience.”
Hannah said, “It actually really shocked me how inaccessible a lot of places on a typical high street are. I think it’s important to point out that accessibility isn’t something that just effects people with a disability, anyone could break their leg and suddenly need access.
“Taking part in this film has demonstrated to me that if we don’t go and question inaccessibility, it is never going to change. The more people that raise their voices, the more things are going to change for the better.”
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