I can understand that not all mainstream groups understand all areas of accessibility or inclusion.
I can understand that they haven’t thought about the barriers faced by disabled people.
And I can even understand how they might not realise that they need to change.
But there is no excuse for groups which profess to exist for disabled people yet who are actually excluding some.
I recently saw a comment from a disability group, to a mum who had politely mentioned that her son was unable to attend their group for people with disabilities as they did not have a toilet with a hoist and adult sized changing table. They knew about the need when they rented their building and made no effort to check out the possibilities of installing the required facilities before signing the tenancy agreement. And they now say it just isn’t possible to make any changes.
Instead of responding with an apology, or with a statement saying that they planned to try to make changes, they actually argued that her son was not excluded! All whilst agreeing that he was unable to come!
He can’t come due to physical barriers, but they say he isn’t excluded.
They then argued that they do lots of good things for at least a hundred other disabled people and that not all groups are for all people. Suggesting that this mum simply shouldn’t expect her son to be able to attend and was in some way detracting from the good that they do for others by raising it at all.
They then argued that “we have never advertised that we offer this service”. What “service?” The child in question needed a toilet! I am sure that most families expect toilet provision at all activities that their children attend. Provision of toilets isn’t seen as a “service”!
My own son has had similar experiences. A few years ago he was unable to attend a Christmas party for disabled children, which was run by a group which is partially funded by the local council, because they had not considered the needs of children who needed a hoist or bench to access the toilet.
A friend’s child has been unable to access activities for disabled children for years, due to a lack of provision for a BSL interpreter. And I know many others who have been made to feel as though they are being awkward by merely wanting to attend an event.
And this is happening to disabled people across the country when they try to access groups which are meant to exist for them.
Disabled children (and adults) should not be excluded from any groups, activities or days out, but it is particularly upsetting to be excluded from something which is actually advertised as being run for disabled people.
Disability groups need to do more than just run group sessions. And they need to do more than just arrange discounts for their group. They should be contacting venues and telling them that they need to improve. They should be defending those who struggle to leave their homes due to a lack of Changing Places toilet facilities. And they should be reminding venues and tourist attractions of their duties under the Equality Act. Mobile facilities can be hired for a day whilst venues look into arranging permanent facilities.
A local group “negotiated” free carer passes for their group at a local tourist attraction. However, they should have been telling that attraction that not offering a free carer ticket for a those who need a carer is actually discriminatory. Do check out this case taken by the incredible Doug Paulley.
This quote from Chris Fry, of Fry Legal, explains it, “By bringing his case, Doug has secured a change of policy which not only affects this venue, but also has a wide-reaching impact on sports and entertainment venues across the UK.”
It isn’t enough for disability groups to work for some disabled people. All too often the ones being ignored are the those who struggle to leave their own homes, and who have no opportunity to attend mainstream groups. Disability organisations need to be guiding venues to act lawfully and to be inclusive to all. And they need to make sure that they only use words like “accessible” and “inclusive” if they actually are being accessible and inclusive to all disabled people.
Have you or your child or person you assist been unable to access a group or activity specifically set up for disabled people just because of a lack of suitable Changing Places toilets?
Or maybe due to other barriers, like not having an interpreter?
Or perhaps just due to the group not wanting to include someone with different needs?
Please do feel free to leave a comment with your own experience.