What is access?
When we think of access, we might think about wheelchair ramps and toilets with handrails. We come across adaptations which are designed to promote access every day, often without realising; tactile pavements and sounds at traffic crossings, braille signing, and even our good friend Siri, to name a few.
Access is defined as “the right or opportunity to use or benefit from something”. That is, the ability to benefit from the same opportunities as others, regardless of differences or disabilities. The Equality Act 2010 states that individuals must not face discrimination based on differences such as age, race, gender, and disability. It is therefore important that we start to take responsibility for promoting access for all wherever possible in our daily lives.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to access; it is something which is personal and therefore needs to be considered on a case by case basis. Access is an issue of equity, rather than equality; each person requires reasonable adjustments to reflect their individual needs – if we gave everybody a white cane or a wheelchair ramp in front of their home, we would be serving only a small percentage of the population and encumbering the rest.
This is similar when thinking about less obvious aspects of access, such as sensory access; while movement breaks and a brightly coloured sensory room might be essential for an individual with a sensory seeking profile, the same adjustments may just push an individual with sensory sensitivities over the edge and cause a sensory meltdown. It is therefore important that when considering access, assumptions are not made. Where possible, adjustments should be made to reflect the needs of the individual.
While it’s difficult to make a space accessible for all, due to conflicting access needs (e.g. one person may need bright lighting to see, while another may not tolerate bright lighting), there are a large number of low demand strategies that can be used to make the world a more accessible place for everyone.
It’s not possible to list every access strategy here for you, but here are just a few changes you can make in your daily life to make the world more accessible for those around you:
- Consider others’ sensory sensitivities – warn others when using loud items such as shredders and avoid spraying strong smelling perfumes or deodorants in public.
- Make your social media posts visual impairment friendly [see life of a blind girl’s fab blog for more information on this: https://bit.ly/32xPYw7]
- Consider breaking down instructions or large chunks of information to support understanding; many people struggle to process large amounts of auditory information.
- When making group plans or planning events, try to ensure the venue is physically accessible; not only for wheelchair users, but also those who have chronic conditions which cause fatigue.
- Don’t be afraid to ask! Individuals with additional access needs are happy to explain their access needs if this means they will be appropriately accommodated.
For more information on planning accessibility in the community, and access rights, take a look at the UK Government’s accessibility guidance here [ https://bit.ly/387M4uO ]
About the Author
Joanne is a friendly, positive, and outgoing Highly Specialist Paediatric Occupational Therapist & Sensory Integration Practitioner, with a real passion and drive for supporting children, young people and their families with everyday activities and challenges. Joanne Works in a professional manner at all times and it is her aim to make a difference to the lives of the individuals and families she supports.
Joanne has previously supported and help to set up Occupational Therapy services to; a children’s therapy company, secure setting for adults with complex needs, and specialist schools for Autism. Joanne’s experience of various diagnoses and working within teams of professionals also extends to complex behavioural difficulties.
Joanne has extensive experience of assessment and report writing, with a particular interest in assisting individuals, families, and Solicitors with SEN Tribunals. Joanne is available to provide assessment, consultancy and training to families, schools, Solicitors and parent support groups, remotely, in the South Wales clinic, across the UK and Internationally.