Want a welcoming workplace?  Accessibility isn’t just about the physical building.

 

Here are 5 things you can do to make your workplace more accessible for disabled visitors.

I love to travel and visit new people and places. Planning, not so much. When I am well, travel is my favourite past time. I rarely plan. When I am unwell, it becomes overwhelming and planning is essential. For most disabled people, planning is not a choice. The outcome of a visit often depends on three things: The quality and depth of information available. The accessibility of the destination. And the welcome you receive. Here’s how to become part of the solution:

 

1) Check the ‘how to find us’ information on your organisation’s website.

Does it give simple, explicit instructions for all types of travel? Does it include a direct telephone number to call for directions if lost? Does it tell the visitor how accessible your workplace is? Every tourism destination should have an accessibility guide. A quick google of a few local venues shows access information on all. Why don’t businesses do the same? Disabled people work too! For a quick and easy win, take a photograph of the entrance to your organisation’s building.  Add it to the ‘how to find us’ page of your website. It will make life easier for everyone that visits.

2) Review your signage.

Any community nurse, paramedic or postman, will tell you how bad we Brits are at showing people how to find us. Subtle, signage that blends into the building might be appealing, but it won’t help your visitors find you. Consider making life easier with signage that is clear and visible from a distance and fitted in an appropriate place. If that isn’t possible then a photograph of your organisation’s building becomes even more important.

3) Consider asking your visitor if they have any additional needs before they visit.

Having an open conversation about a disability is hard for many people.  So much so, that many people avoid the subject altogether. But it can make all the difference for a disabled visitor.  It’s completely reasonable to ask if a person has any additional needs.  And it is completely reasonable for a disabled person to choose whether to disclose those needs. But choice is everything. Click here to learn more about disability etiquette.

4) Are your staff disability aware?

Esi Hardy, MD of Celebrating Disability, talked to me about the importance of a culture of inclusion in the workplace: “You can implement all the right tools, policies and procedures to make disabled customers feel welcome in your business, but your staff are quite often the first port of call. If they don’t have the right attitude or don’t understand disability, all your efforts will go to waste. Embedding a culture of inclusion supports your staff to understand what is expected of them in terms of empathy, diversity, tolerance and acceptance”.  Effective diversity training empowers staff and experience tells us that companies that value an inclusive culture are a better experience for everyone, employees and customers alike.

5) How accessible is your website?

Everyone values an easy to navigate website. Interestingly, websites that are made accessible for people with sight impairment or issues with manual dexterity are far easier for everyone to use. Basic tools such as Alt Tags, that allow screen readers to read a picture on the screen, will enable a blind or partially sighted person to experience what you are trying to show them. And it’s not just users. Search engines prefer them too! Designing for accessibility is just good business. To find out more about making your service accessible, click here.

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak click here

To find jobs on Evenbreak click here

And to find out more about best practice around disability in the workplace take a peek here

 

Anxiety and Accessibility – Is your workplace welcoming?

The words accessibility and workplace usually bring one image to mind: A visibly disabled person, in a wheelchair, trying to access a building. Ramps. Lifts. Revolving doors. For many disabled people, just getting to a venue takes careful planning.  But accessibility comes in many forms.  And can impact upon many conditions.

I went to a meet a new client in the centre of Birmingham last week. I knew I might have problems sleeping the night before. I knew I’d be nervous. I knew it would be a challenge. But it didn’t occur to me to troubleshoot potential obstacles before going. Not in enough detail.

I checked the train times in advance. I checked the address in advance. I bought tickets in advance. I picked my clothes in advance. Small things that can help manage anxiety.

But on the day, it was scorching hot. I’d only had a couple of hours sleep. 15 minutes from station to venue wasn’t enough time for me to find the place easily. I got lost. I panicked. I got hotter. Birmingham seemed very, very, busy and the buildings very, very, tall.

Anxiety can affect basic functioning…

Everyone looked too busy to stop and ask for directions. And the buildings weren’t clearly marked. Google maps kept kicking me out of walking directions and decided to stick me in a car instead. I stopped people and asked for help but three people later, I was still lost. I rang the receptionist and asked for directions but had to be transferred to another receptionist first. It got later. I panicked a bit more. I didn’t understand the directions. And I didn’t want to be late. Anxiety was clouding comprehension.

The client rang and asked if all was well. I admitted I was lost and rather stressed. She was calm and kind and directed me into the building. I was two minutes away! But in my panic, I hadn’t remembered the first line of the address and had walked past the building numerous times.

Mental health conditions can take something very simple and make it incredibly hard. Memory, concentration, breathing, the ability to control your body temperature. All are affected. I am an able-bodied person and I can physically travel anywhere very easily. Except I can’t. Sometimes, if the week has held many stressors, the mental obstacles are hard to overcome.

When I approached the building it was huge, glass, with a revolving door. No clear signposting. There was a security guard rather than the reception desk I expected.  When I arrived at the reception there were multiple instructions about how to get through security barriers and how to programme the lift. People to interact with. More challenges.

What can help?

But then, I got out of the lift and everything changed. The client met me at the second reception point, so I didn’t have to be directed again. She asked me if I’d like a comfort break first. I welcomed the opportunity to run cold water on my wrists to calm myself down. She led me to an office, offered me water and from the very first second I met her, to the very last second when I left, did everything she could to make me comfortable and at ease.

We had a successful meeting and she gave me clear directions back to the station. I got home easily with not one issue.  On my return, I realised that I have a disability. Internal and external factors affect how well I function. The client, in turn, had reflected upon the corporate environment that she felt so comfortable in. She asked me how could she have made my visit easier? In truth, she absolutely did make it easier. Had I been greeted with a less aware, less professional, or less compassionate person, the outcome could have been very different.

Next week I’ll be writing about how to make your workplace more accessible to those with a mental health condition.

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak click here

To find jobs on Evenbreak click here

And to find out more about best practice around disability in the workplace take a peek here

 

How to organise an effective accessible team building event

Building a strong and effective team within your business, means building and maintaining strong relationships and communication skills. This can’t happen on its own and as such, you may want to think about including regular team building events to your annual schedule.

To make sure every member of the team can partake, it’s important for employers to really think about the types of events they organise. Coordinating an accessible team building day can be quick and easy if you use services such as team building event experts from Team Tactics or other team building events companies. These services can help you to pull together the perfect event for your employees, without you having to spend too much time on getting everything set up.

We’ve put together a few key things below, that you may want to check and pin down when organising your upcoming team event. Remember to liaise with your team building service provider and take on board the opinions of your team, to create a truly memorable day for everyone involved.

Assess outdoor activities 

Outdoor activities can be immense fun and can help to boost morale by getting your team out of the office and into the fresh air. However, it’s important to think about the terrain and accessibility of your venue before booking anywhere.

For treasure hunts, assess the map of the area and highlight any routes that may not be accessible to everyone. You can then map alternative routes to offer more options for those that may need a more accessible route but still want to partake.

For garden parties and festivals, keep in mind the weather, as wet conditions may make the ground soft and difficult to navigate for those using wheelchairs or that aren’t steady on their feet.

Liaising with venues

Don’t write off a venue straight away, just because it doesn’t look like it is accessible. Call the venue directly or talk to your team building event company about how you could adapt to make things easier for everyone.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or added extras, as most venues are happy to provide alternative features such as ramps, walkways or help onsite.

Talk to your team

Don’t be scared to talk directly to your team to find out what they would prefer and what would be best for them. Show a consideration for their needs and keep them involved in the planning process, to make sure the day is truly accessible for everyone in the team.

A good option is to send your team a list of potential activities and allowing them to pick which one they would prefer to do. This means that you are more likely to get it right first time and organise a team building day that everyone can enjoy.

Asking as many questions as possible, to both your team and your potential venues, can help you make a well informed decision when it comes to your team building event. An inclusive and effective team building day relies on good communication between both you and your team, so make sure to get off on the right foot.

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/employers/

To find jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/jobs

How to Refurbish an Office to Suit Disabled Employees

A guest blog around ensuring the office is accessible for disabled employees:

A Disability is neither an inability nor a personal choice. It can be as a result of heredity factors, pre-birth issues like chemical imbalances or disease and environmental factors. Forms of disabilities include physical limitations, sensory limitations, cognitive limitations, neurological, psychiatric limitation, multiple chemical sensitivity limitations and learning limitations.

Inclusive employment entails the act of employing disabled individuals. They should have access to employment the same way other individuals have.  However, many workplaces have for a long time ignored the measures to take to accommodate a disabled person. These measures may include office refurbishment to suit disabled employees which are discussed below:

I. Tables and Desks with Adjustable Heights
This is one of the basic office refurbishment that is done for disabled employees. Almost all office tables are usually fixed and non-adjustable. This makes it hard for employees who use wheelchairs to comfortably work in that office. This is because the wheelchair itself is adjustable to the level that the disabled person in employment feels comfortable in at a certain time hence the table should also be adjustable to cater for this.

II. Ramps and Grab Bars
A ramp is a sloping surface that connects two levels of different heights. Although many offices have constructed ramps, research shows that there are still many levels in offices that do not have ramps to connect different offices. For a person using a wheelchair for movement from one place to the other in the office, the office will have to be refurbished by construction of ramps and grab bars.

III. Customised Phones
These are phones that cater for individual needs such as those of disabled people. This refurbishment must be done in an office because a visually impaired employee may need a phone with large buttons and/or one that has an automatic dialing system. An employee with hiring impairment may need a phone with headphone inputs or a phone with voice activated speakers.

IV. Organised Shelving System
Shelves hold files and items that are of use in the office. Inclusive offices should acknowledge the fact that the shelves should be refurbished to be of reasonable and accessible heights to all employees. For a visually impaired employee, the shelves should be organized in a way that the files are in a certain well known order for easy retrieval.

V. Cognitive Help
This is the use of recorded information to help some disabled employees in easy understanding. For example, for employees with learning disabilities, rather than using words to explain something in the office, it is advisable to have a place that you can draw diagrams and pictures that they will see and understand the information faster and clearer. Come up with ways that will allow for easy understanding of information like conducting training.

VI. Special Computer System
Visually impaired people may not be able to read from traditional computers. Instead, they could be provided with braille display devices that have the ability to read the screen and provide the information to braille for the employee. Screen readers which can read text out loud to employees can also be an alternative. In addition, the screen and keyboard placement should be flexible for employees with mobility impairments.

VII. Talking Calculator
This is an office calculator that can be used by the visually impaired as it communicates verbally to the user informing them the pressed number. It is a basic refurbishment because a calculator will always be needed in the office.

VIII. Non-skid mat
This is a special mat that ensures that the working materials like the desk do not skid. It is useful to the visually impaired as well as persons on wheelchairs who might accidentally move a desk to a wrong position while on movement in the office.

Conclusion

Refurbishment of the offices to suit disabled people has led to an increase in the number of disabled employees in offices. Disability related employment should above all cater for the rights of an employee with a disability by ensuring that they are not discriminated against.

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/employers/

To find jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/jobs

 

CAA help passengers with hidden disabilities

Civil Aviation Authority, who work with Evenbreak to attract disabled candidates, have issued new guidelines on making air travel more accessible for passengers with hidden disabilities.

  • New CAA guidance sets out how UK airports should support people with hidden disabilities, helping improve journeys for those with conditions including dementia, autism, mental health problems, hearing loss and visual impairment.
  • Backed by a host of disability charities, the guidance aims to help airport familiarisation and reduce stress and anxiety for passengers with hidden disabilities.
  • It offers clear information on how airports should support passengers including providing clear and detailed information ahead of travel, as well as enhanced training for airport and security staff.
  • The guidance is part of the CAA’s ongoing drive to promote the assistance available to passengers with disabilities.

New guidelines published by the Civil Aviation Authority set to help passengers with hidden disabilities get better support at UK airports and more effective communication ahead of travel, helping to reduce stress and anxiety when travelling.

Following a wide-ranging consultation with airports and disability organisations, the CAA has set out a number of key guidelines, which include improving identification of people that need extra help and ensuring information is available in a range of formats including clear pictogram images and audio messages.

In addition airports should consider providing quiet routes and quiet areas and must ensure airport staff, including security staff, are given enhanced hidden disability training.

UK airports have welcomed the guidance, which clarifies their legal obligations in providing ‘special assistance’ to any person with a disability or reduced mobility, which includes those with hidden disabilities, when travelling through an airport and/or on board an aircraft.

Key guidelines for airports include:

  • Airport staff, including security staff, should have hidden disability awareness training, as well as training to cover communication techniques.
  • Ahead of travel, airports should provide clear and detailed information for people with hidden disabilities. This will help with overall familiarisation of the airport environment and help ease anxiety and stress. Communication should include a combination of accessible videos, photos and pictures of airport processes.
  • People with hidden disabilities should have the option of wearing a lanyard, bracelet or other suitably designed aid provided by the airport to ensure they are easily identified by staff and can get the assistance they need.
  • Airports should provide a quiet area to wait for flights and quiet routes through the airport, for example bypassing the retail area. This will make travelling through the airport less stressful and disorientating and will benefit those with sensory impairments in particular.
  • Clear images and audio messages should be available throughout the airport to help passengers find essential points such as toilets, quiet areas and assistance points.
  • People with hidden disabilities must never be separated from a parent/friend/accompanying person during a security search, and security staff must explain prior to the search what screening will take place and make any necessary adjustments.
  • Airports should consider facilitating ‘familiarisation visits’ or open days for passengers prior to travel to help them experience the airport and aircraft environment.

In regards to this guidance, the CAA has asked the UK’s 30 largest UK airports to make the necessary improvements to their special assistance service and we will publish a report on the changes made next year.

Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling said:
“We welcome the CAA’s tailored guidance which provides a great opportunity for all UK airports to better meet the needs of people with hidden disabilities.
“I would encourage airports to learn from each other, consult with charities and specialist groups and deliver great services, to help ensure passengers with hidden disabilities enjoy the huge benefits of air travel.”

Director of the CAA’s Markets and Consumer Group, Richard Moriarty said:
“Everyone should have fair access to air travel and that’s why there are regulations in place to make sure passengers get the assistance they need to be able to fly.
”Our engagement with disability organisations shows that people with hidden disabilities want to be in control of the assistance they receive, but they do not always get clear information ahead of travel about what support is available.
“To help reduce stress and anxiety it is important passengers and their travelling companions have access to illustrative guides, online videos and photos, which explain the airport layout, the processes passengers need to go through, including security scanning, and what types of support is available.
“We are really pleased with the support UK airports and disability organisations have provided to help us develop these guidelines, however this is just the start and over the next six months we expect airports to make changes and improvements to the services and assistance they provide passengers with hidden disabilities.”

Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society, said:
“Everyone has the right to be able to travel comfortably and with ease, and we all have a role in helping air passengers with dementia feel like they’re able to continue flying.
“Sadly, we know that airports can be a daunting or frightening experience for many people affected by dementia – this can put people off travelling and in turn lead to them feeling socially isolated.
“This new guidance from the CAA will provide clear guidelines to help UK airports become more dementia friendly and transform the air travel experience for people with dementia and their carers.”

Daniel Cadey, Autism Access Development Manager, at the National Autistic Society, said:
“The new guidance is an important step towards opening up the world to autistic people and their families.
“Like anyone else, people on the autism spectrum and families want the opportunity to travel and go on holiday. But many rely on routine and find the often busy, loud and unpredictable environment of airports disorientating and overwhelming.
“Helping organisations, including Gatwick airports, to achieve our Autism Friendly Award, we’ve seen how small adjustments can often make the biggest difference to autistic people. For instance, making sure that staff are aware of hidden conditions like autism, and that there are quieter places for autistic passengers to go if they’re feeling overwhelmed.
“We were delighted to have had the opportunity to share our expertise with the Civil Aviation Authority by feeding into their guidelines, which have the potential to make a significant difference to a great many passengers.
“We hope that more organisations, including airlines, will follow this example and do their bit to help make sure autistic people and their families have the same opportunities to travel as everyone else.”

Ian Sherriff, Chair of the Prime Minister’s Dementia Air-Transport Group said:
“As someone who is totally committed to helping our society tackle the many challenges that people with dementia and their carers face daily, I am really excited about the innovative approaches that have been used to develop these guidelines.
“There is widespread recognition at the highest level of Government of the present and potential future impacts of dementia. The search for ways to enhance the quality of life for those affected is a constant and complex one. Creative projects such as hidden disabilities guidelines have the potential to open up new ways of working in partnerships in the world of aviation.
“On behalf of the Dementia Air-Transport Group I welcome such ground-breaking solutions that help overcome the challenges faced by people with dementia and their carers in the world of air travel.”

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/employers/

To find jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/jobs

The disabled-friendly property challenge: What is the government doing about it?

 

11 million people in the UK are disabled – that’s 1 in 14 people. Whilst many of us have reason to complain about estate agents, it seems as though disabled people may have more reason than most.

A complex search

Searching for a home to buy, whether it’s your first home or an opportunity to downsize, can be stressful, with property portals advertising hundreds of properties and search features to navigate, designed to help you find the perfect home for your needs.

But what about disabled people?

Mainstream estate agent and property portal websites don’t allow you to search for disability features such as toilets on the ground floor or doorways wide enough for wheelchair access. Homes with elements such as 90-degree turns into rooms could make access impossible for wheelchair users, and the majority of estate agents simply aren’t aware of this fact.

Accessible properties

There are companies out there who are changing this – website such as the Accessible Property Register feature accessible homes for disabled people to browse. The site was set up to enable estate agents and developers to advertise properties which had been adapted for disabled people and currently receives around 20,000 visits from prospective purchasers a month. Whilst the site lists around 500 homes, it seems as though estate agents have been rather slow to register with the site and publicise their properties – only 20 have ever registered and so the site owners have compiled the existing listings themselves.

Lifetime Standard regulations

According to information from the Open Property Group, new homes must be built to be ‘lifetime standard’. This means that they must be accessible for the elderly and disabled, and this is helping the situation improve. But it’s the 70% of existing housing stock in the UK that poses the problem. Disabled people searching for accessible homes generally look for some (if not all) of the following features:

  • Level access to living areas
  • Toilet on the entrance level (or lift to the upper floor)
  • Off street or unrestricted parking within 25m of the property
  • No steps between the parking area and property entrance
  • Level access to at least one entrance

These are elements most of us don’t need to consider when we’re purchasing a property, but for disabled people and those with limited mobility, they’re absolutely vital questions to ask. Already petitions such as the one started by Fibromyalgia sufferer Sue Frier, calling for developers to build more disabled-friendly homes, have gathered thousands of signatures, but the new government could be doing more to help disabled people get on the property ladder.

Time to take action

Theresa May needs to take steps to address the housing crisis now, before things get worse. Amongst other things, she should consider the following:

  • Establishing a national housebuilding fund to take advantage of low government borrowing costs, enabling 100,000 new homes to be constructed, suitable for disabled people
  • Training more people in construction, with a variety of apprenticeships across the sector appealing to young people
  • Building more single storey homes that are accessible for disabled people
  • Commandeer public sector land such as sites in London owned by TfL and the NHS – it’s estimated there is enough land to build around 130,000 new homes

If steps are taken now to address the housing crisis and the shortage of accessible homes for the UK’s disabled population, we could see an improvement over the next few years, but it will require commitment and determination from the country’s new Prime Minister.

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/employers/

To find jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/jobs

How to find the confidence to re-enter the workplace

To be disabled in the workplace is to have to prove yourself more than anyone else in the room. Despite increasing awareness of the challenges faced by those with a disability, the number of places that are accommodating towards the needs of this section of the population are still low.

According to government figures, disabled people are more likely to be in employment than they were in 2002, but still less likely to be in employment than the vast majority of other people.

The figures continue, “In 2012, 46.3% of working-age disabled people are in employment compared to 76.4% of working-age non-disabled people.

“There is therefore a 30.1 percentage point gap between disabled and non-disabled people, representing over two million people. The gap has reduced by 10 percentage points over the last 14 years and has remained stable over the last two years despite the economic climate.”

Ebbing confidence

Although these figures show an increase in the number of disabled people in work, it also highlights a yawning gulf between the number of non-disabled people in work and their disabled counterparts.

The reasons behind this disparity are manifold – disabled people are less likely to be deemed fit for work – but it’s important to ask how many people are simply lacking the confidence to enter the workforce.

Confidence building, then, is a necessity when it comes to reintegrating someone into the working world. Like a hummingbird, people who feel happy in their career are have never stopped, always had a project on the go.

This motivation isn’t an inherent trait. Instead, it’s developed and nurtured from a variety of outside influences. A few of these influences include training and professional development – and they don’t always have to be tackled on the job.

Using the internet

It’s difficult to motivate yourself, but the internet can be a useful tool. An online degree, for instance, can be a perfect way to build your business acumen and enjoy a fully accredited qualification in your sector.

Online degrees build up slowly and are specially designed for people who require flexibility in their studies. So you’ll be able to study any time you like, holding down a separate job and still able to keep abreast of your modules.

What’s more, the vast majority of distance learning degrees (which are generally vocational) are designed to bolster people skills in the workplace, turning newcomers into leaders within a relaxed teaching atmosphere.

Charismatic workers

Determination and charisma are the keys to gaining entry into the workplace, especially if your disability has knocked your confidence in the past.

Although the government is arguably unreasonable in forcing people back into work (checks from private companies revealed that more than 2,300 people died shortly after being declared fit for work between 2011 and 2014), there’s a case to be made for training more disabled people who don’t feel confident or capable enough in the workplace.

And with a real, intensive and comprehensive educational strategy, more and more people will be able to enter the working world without a stutter.

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/employers/

To find jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/jobs/

Changing Facilities – where are they?

Today’s blog on the vital topic of finding changing facilities has been written for Evenbreak by Will Davies.
Photograph courtesy of the Changing Places Consortium

For many years, people with very particular and quite severe disabilities would find getting out and about particularly challenging. Thousands of people living in the UK need more than just the standard accessible toilets in order to enjoy activities outside of their homes; these people need more advanced changing places facilities that have things such as a height adjustable changing bench, a hoist and much more room compared to your average toilet. 

The Changing Places Consortium have launched their campaign on behalf of the people that cannot use standard accessible toilets, with their main aim being to create more changing places facilities across the UK, particularly in places such as city centres, hospitals and airports. 

Who needs access to changing places facilities?  

It’s too hard to use an exact figure when talking about how many people need access to a changing places facility, but it includes hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities, not to mention 40,000 people that suffer from profound and multiple learning difficulties. It also affects people that have diseases like Motor Neurone disease, Multiple Sclerosis and Cerebral Palsy.

 It is thought that the approximate figures for people that need changing places toilets are: 

  • 130,000 older people
  • 30,000 people with cerebral palsy
  • 13,000 people with an acquired brain injury
  • 8,500 people with Multiple Sclerosis
  • 8,000 people with Spina Bifida
  • 500 people with Motor Neurone Disease 

Therefore, should the campaign be a success, then it will benefit around a quarter of a million people in the UK.

What have the Changing Places Consortium done so far?

The Changing Places Consortium have hit a number of landmarks since the beginning of their campaign, which is now really gathering pace and having a big influence in Northern Ireland too. 

Their successes so far include: 

  • Lagan Valley opening the first changing places facility in Northern Ireland.
  • Held successful talks with Boris Johnson, resulting in a changing places facility being opened in the City Hall.
  • Several facilities made available for the London Olympics.
  • Mobile facilities used at Birmingham shopping centres over the festive period.
  • George Best International Airport opened their first changing places toilet.
  • East Midlands, Birmingham and Gatwick all followed.
  • The Consortium partnered with manufacturer Aveso.
  • 600 new changing places toilets built. 

The Consortium have also implemented some really handy features on their website, including the “Find a toilet” service. The user simply enters the postcode of their current whereabouts and the website will display the closest changing places toilets. The site also provides a designing section, with case studies to help you or an organisation build the perfect changing places toilet. 

Still a long way to go  

Despite all of the Changing Places Consortium’s hard work, there is still a long way to go. Over 600 new changing places facilities may seem like a lot, but, when you put it into perspective, those 600 new facilities are across the whole of the UK. I did some research and found it quite shocking that there are only 5 changing places toilets within a 10 mile radius of my house and 2 out of the 5 were at Heathrow Airport!

I am sure it won’t be long before this all changes thanks to the hard work from the Changing Places Consortium, keep up the good work! 

The Airport Parking Shop have created a very handy blog post which provides information about changing places toilets at UK Airports.

Similarly, the Luton Airport Guide have a really useful page on travelling with a disability.

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/employers/

To find jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/jobs/

To make a donation to Evenbreak go here – https://localgiving.com/charity/Evenbreak

What to look out for when buying furniture for disabled people

A recent open letter published by blogger Samantha Cleasby served to highlight something which often gets overlooked in modern day society: the plight of those with disabilities.

While Cleasby, who runs blog So Bad Ass, has full use of her limbs, her blog showed how much prejudice those with disabilties can face in everyday life. As a sufferer of inflammatory bowel disease, Cleasby has been subjected to judgement, most notably when she recently used a disabled toilet in public.

However, while prejudice is an ongoing struggle for those with disabilities, in 2015, more and more is being done to make people’s lives as easy as possible. Technology is ever improving to help, but this is more than just elevators and wheelchairs. If you want to make your home life as comfortable as possible, here are a few tips on what to look out for when buying furniture for disabled people.

Beds

A good night’s sleep is one of the most important factors to consider when making the life of a disabled person more comfortable. For that reason, support and comfort should be top priority. You can guarantee comfort by investing in an extra supportive mattress; for example, Bedstar has a vast range of memory foam mattresses. Made of latex, these adjust to the contours of the user’s body by adapting to their body heat, guaranteeing a better night’s sleep.

Sofas

Along with beds, the sofa is undoubtedly one of the most used pieces of furniture around the home, and to that end, should provide easy access for the disabled user to sit down and back up again. For this reason, many people have expressed their preference for recliner sofas, whose height can be adjusted to help a variety of problem areas, from bad backs to necks in need of a little extra support.

Office furniture

Of course, comfort is not limited to the just the home alone – for those of us working office jobs, it is important to make sure that those long hours sitting are not having an impact on our health. There is more to consider than just a fully supportive office chair – you could also consider investing in an ergonomic keyboard, which helps to support the wrists and prevent repetitive strain injury.

Whether it’s your home life of your work life, comfort is a top priority for everybody, and with ever-developing advances in technology, we’re all guaranteed a happier and healthier future.

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/employers/

To find jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/jobs/

To make a donation to Evenbreak go here – https://localgiving.com/charity/evenbreak

How UK airports are improving their disabled facilities

Today Will Davies of Fubra talks about accessibility within UK airports:

With the Disabled Air Passengers’ Rights Regulation being put into practice back in 2008 and the number of special assistance passengers using air travel rising in the UK, pressure has really increased for UK airports to improve their disabled facilities and accessibility. In recent years there have been many noticeable changes at major UK airports, including Heathrow and Gatwick; but how effective have these changes been? Could UK airports be doing more to ease the hassle and stress that can come with journeying through an airport with a disability?

Heathrow Airport

Being the busiest airport in the UK, Heathrow have simply had to improve their facilities for special assistance passengers. One of the very first things that Heathrow decided to work on was helping special assistance passengers get to and around the airport; the Heathrow Express implemented things such as:

  • Platforms being leveled to the train
  • Unaided wheelchair access
  • Illuminated buttons with Audible signals
  • Spaces for wheelchair users on each carriage
  • Accessible toilets

Heathrow then decided to implement a special assistance bus which helps transfer special assistance passengers from terminal to terminal should they need it.

Major redevelopments were also apparent inside each of the Heathrow terminals with special assistance points being scattered around each of the terminals, Heathrow recommend that you pre-arrange your assistance to make sure that it is available and to ensure that no time is lost. Other things such as ramps, wider access pathways, disabled toilet facilities and reserved seating at check in areas have also been added to the airport.

How effective have these changes been? Well, whilst many argue that the changes have had a really positive impact for special assistance travellers, there are equally as many people who argue that more should be being done. Many passengers have complained that there is not enough communication between the Airline companies and the airport, with not enough wheelchairs being supplied and not enough staff on hand to help. Others have complained about the special assistance points, with one passenger quoting “even after waiting for 15 mins, I was not taken to the passport area until nearly an hour later”. To me, it sounds like the facilities at Heathrow are good for special assistance passengers, but the equipment and the way staff handle these passengers is not always up to standard. Overall, Heathrow receives a ‘reasonably good’ grade from me.

If you are thinking of travelling from Heathrow in the near future or would like to find out some more information about the airport, then head over to this comprehensive guide – http://www.heathrow-airport-guide.co.uk/disabled-facilities.html

Gatwick Airport

For special assistance passengers, Gatwick Airport is seen as being the most ‘flexible’ when it comes to assistance and facilities. In addition to Heathrow’s facilities, Gatwick have also added PRM only areas in departure lounges as well as assistance ‘lanes’ to avoid collisions with other passengers and generally speed journeys up. Gatwick Airport recommend that special assistance passengers contact the airline company they are flying with 48 hours before the flight to ensure you can get the services you need whilst flying. Gatwick have also partnered with the charitable organisation ‘Travel Care’, who provide extra assistance should it be needed, they are located in the South Terminal.

Guide and hearing dogs are allowed into the airport and on airlines, providing they are signed up to the ‘PETS’ travel scheme and again, its advised that if you are travelling with a dog, your airline should be advised in advance. Gatwick Airport allow special assistance passengers to take their own equipment right up to the departure gate, but its very important that you make yourself known at the PRM desk after going through security.

So how effective are the facilities for special assistance passengers at Gatwick Airport? Gatwick have done more than Heathrow to improve the airport experience for special assistance passengers in my opinion, whilst passengers generally seem to be happier with their facilities and services. A German passenger quoted “Staff were really helpful with my wheelchair, service was friendly and efficient, from the pleasant checking in point right up to help getting onto the plane.” A few negatives included the disabled seating areas being overrun by McDonalds customers, duty managers refusing to speak with passengers and reduced mobility passengers accidently being told to use routes with stairs.

If you are thinking of travelling from Gatwick in the near future or would like to find out some more information about the airport, then head over to this comprehensive guide – http://www.gatwick-airport-guide.co.uk/disabled-facilities.html

Parking at UK airports

Parking at the airport can be a nightmare sometimes, especially if you require special assistance. Luckily for special assistance passengers most UK airports have dedicated Blue Badge parking spaces, at Heathrow, these are located near the terminal access routes and at Gatwick they can be found in the short term and long term car parks. If you are parking at a UK airport in the near future then you may find this guide to disabled parking at airports very handy – https://www.airport-parking-shop.co.uk/blog/airport-parking-people-disabilities-special-needs-2/

To advertise jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/employers/

To find jobs on Evenbreak go here – http://www.evenbreak.co.uk/jobs/

To make a donation to Evenbreak go here – https://localgiving.com/charity/evenbreak