What does accessibility look like for people with brain injuries?
Brain injuries are not always the most visible of disabilities, research by Headway showed that in 2014, 348,934 were admitted to hospital with an acquired brain injury, 162,544 were admitted with a head injury and there were 130,551 stroke admissions. A brain injury can happen to anyone, with some injuries occurring during birth. Sometimes, brain injuries can be exacerbated or caused by medical negligence, as hospitals mismanage brain injury patients or do not provide adequate aftercare – causing some people to return home and suffer a bleed or a stroke.
A brain injury can come as a lifestyle shock to anyone, who may experience issues with their balance or mobility. Other, less visible symptoms may be memory loss or even changes to mood and character. This can be upsetting and frustrating, as friends and families may not understand the changes happening. This loss in autonomy can be a huge upheaval, which is why it is important that more businesses embrace accessibility, to ensure that more people can continue to lead an active and fulfilling life.
When we talk about accessibility, there are some obvious steps for businesses to take as they address visible disability. Disabled loos, ramps, handrails, these installations all exist to assist people with mobility issues. When it comes to the less visible aspects of brain injury though, are businesses taking the steps to create truly accessible spaces?
A recent story saw staff at a Wetherspoons kick a woman out for being drunk, when actually she had a brain injury. This lack of training and support for staff members shows an inaccessibility of their premises, as victims of brain injury may struggle to be treated fairly.
Sometimes sufferers of brain injury might experience speech problems, making giving a food order difficult or asking for certain things. While some people with a speech difficulty may carry their own assistance aids, few businesses ensure employees are trained in simple nonverbal communication such as Makaton, or provide visual aids to be pointed to easily by someone who may struggle to give verbal instructions.
It’s paramount that those who have had a brain injury are afforded dignity in public. Businesses that are truly accessible do not only address the realities of physical disabilities, but also consider the customer experience of everyone, and how that can be improved through training and investment.