We were asked by the Morning Advertiser to write an article on how Pubs can become more disability friendly here’s what we wrote on 14th July 2016, see full article in print here…………….Let’s hope they take note!!
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) and The Equality Act 2010 are coming into force as the government raises the profile of people with disabilities and organisations see inclusion as an economic necessity and a driver for growth. Attracting the disability pound can give bars a competitive edge in the growing market of affluent, less-physically-able individuals, estimated by the Department of Work & Pensions at £212bn a year in the UK.
But where to start? According to The Extra Costs Commission report in June last year, six in ten businesses surveyed said that they would benefit from better information about disabled people’s consumer habits and preferences. It can be a daunting subject for publicans and bar owners too. At Blue Badge Style we review venues and rate them on their accessibility, facilities and style. The idea came about because, despite becoming increasingly less mobile, I still wanted to enjoy a social life. The trouble is that, in my efforts to get a drink in a bar, I’ve been in the goods entrance, up in a dumb waiter and hauled up across thick carpet!
So, how can you make your pub more appealing to customers with disabilities? Here are some quick wins and ideas to consider.
Three Quick Wins
- Look at your loo. Every pub needs a decent toilet for its customers. The toilet for a customer with disabilities needs a few additions, but these needn’t been difficult to do. We suggest you take a look at:
- Junk! It’s not a secondary storage space, it’s a toilet for someone who has difficulty getting about and needs a bit of room. We’ve tried to use disabled loos that are stacked to the ceiling with boxes of beer! So, clear out your junk and make it useable.
- Grab rails. One each side is best, so your customers can lift themselves across from the wheelchair. If you’re not sure, try sitting on a chair and lifting yourself across.
- Emergency cord. Get one, connect it up and make sure it reaches the floor. It seems obvious, but so often they’re tied up; out of the way and therefore out of reach when they’re most needed.
- Get your ramp out and give it a trial run. Try wheeling someone up it on a scooter or in a wheelbarrow. This way you can find out about it before your customers need to use it and be ready when they do arrive. No-one wants to feel anxious or nervous about a new experience, whether they are staff or customers. It’s always encouraging for pub goers if staff know what they’re doing and you don’t have to wait in the cold while they find the key to the disabled loo, which is cluttered up with the ramp! If you haven’t got a ramp, find something that will do the job. People with disabilities can be game to try something. If they’ve got to the door of your pub, they’ll probably try even a makeshift ramp to get in.
- Advertise your accessibility on your website. Once your loo is clear and your ramp is tested, let everyone know. Not surprisingly, people with disabilities like to check a place out online before they visit. Nowhere is 100% accessible to everyone and people with disabilities are used to overcoming obstacles, we just like to know what they are in advance. This should be more than just ‘wheelchair access’ (which could mean, via the goods entrance), or a health and safety/regulatory document. Ideally we’d like some images of the steps, ramp, floor coverings and your newly revamped toilet.
Three Ideas to Consider
The next step is to think about your guests with disabilities when you’re having a refurbishment. Disability can be an engine of innovation and thinking about your customers with disabilities could make your pub or bar more attractive to everyone.
- A large unisex toilet. A disabled loo takes up space, but if you’re considering improvements why not create one really fantastic unisex loo, rather than two small ones?
- Create a lower bar, so that people in a wheelchair can be seen by the bar staff and order their own drinks. At the same time, consider making a part of your pub seated with table service. People in wheelchairs, or those who need to sit down rather than stand, can find themselves in a sea of legs. A lower bar and seating spaces can make a big difference to their night out.
- Review your whole space. People with disabilities do like to know what to expect and can decide for themselves. We rate some bars with 1 tick. It means they’re very stylish, but they don’t have a disabled toilet. So come for one drink and move on. But you want your customers to stay; you want to get 3 Blue Badge Style ticks! So a review of your whole space, with the results on your website, can make you more attractive to that £212bn market. Areas to think about include:
- Steps – see if you can flatten out the small steps in your pub with a ramp. Even a 2-inch step can be a barrier to people in a wheelchair or using a stick. An able-bodied person will hardly notice a ramp.
- Flooring – wood and stone are great for a wheelchair, but might pose a problem for a walking stick user. Occasional carpets also need to be pointed out.
- Table legs – good leg positioning helps wheelchair users get close to the table.
- Hard surfaces – can maximise background noise, which can be a challenge for those with hearing difficulties.
But this isn’t just about attracting the disability dollar. It’s about improving reputation by doing the right thing and a review is also the quickest way to be anticipatory, as the Equality Law requires. In the end, it’s about offering people an informed choice so they can get on with having a good time!
Author: Fiona Jarvis, Founder of Blue Badge Style
For more on Blue Badge Style Gallery see www.bluebadgestyle.com