My local theatre has recently come under fire for some serious flaws in their disabled access. It makes fascinating and quite disheartening reading, especially as I myself have poor mobility. The old chief recently paid a trip to the theatre and he very quickly let his feelings known after witnessing one of the actresses being manually lifted onto the stage – it was the only way she could get up onto it.
The former regatta chief took his complaints to the papers and let his anger become very well-known. I am a supporter of his and now many other individuals are backing his cause and working to put pressure on the theatre to make much needed improvements. The theatre is obviously not in compliance with the Equality Act and money needs to be raised soon to improve the theatre that plays such an important role in any community.
Many Businesses Fail to Provide Adequate Access
The theatre is not the only place in our town which is failing people like me. There are restaurants, public houses and hotels close by that are practically impossible to gain entry to. I have the option of shouting up stone steps (steep ones at that!) and asking for a member of staff to lift me up in my chair if I want to catch a bite to eat or pop in for a swift pint after work. Then there are the shops. Most of the doorways are fine, although some are a little small thanks to the old buildings but that’s not where my main issues lie; the problems happen inside.
The aisles are often cramped, especially in the shops that seem to leave their stock lying around. I end up having to perform awkward manoeuvres just trying to free myself from the maze. Many shops have extremely high counters too where they stand serving customers. I have to really reach up lifting my heavy basket just to get served. It’s a pain in the backside and it really annoys me. Didn’t the designer of the store consider people in wheelchairs? To be honest, I really don’t think they did.
Towns All Over the Country Fail when it Comes to Disabled Access
Our town is not the only one like this. It is supposed to be full of shops and businesses that the locals can make full use of, yet we can’t. There are many of us who are ignored and looked over and now we are finally speaking out, reaching out and communicating with the owners and the councils in a bid to make improvements.
The Equality Act has helped. Now it is possible to take legal action if anyone feels discriminated against and I have come very close to doing so. On both occasions I wrote directly to the company first and both of the businesses took my complaints seriously. One of them installed a ramp at the doorway and the other one provided some training to their employees and took the time to discuss the matter with me in person. In the end felt there was no need to sue as they took care of the situation promptly.
My Advice to Town Centres
Never leave any customers out of the equation when it comes to customer service and design of the store. I may be in a wheelchair but I have plenty of money I want to spend in my town centre, so give me the chance to do just that. By leaving me and others like me out in the cold you are actually losing out on income. Perhaps this is contributing to the lack of customers you have?