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
Paediatric Occupational Therapist
Lilly is an enthusiastic and approachable individual with a passion for supporting children, teenagers and young adults in finding meaning and independence in their lives. Lilly specialises in the area of assessment and intervention for individuals with a range of challenges and diagnoses, including autism, dyspraxia, anxiety and mental health.
In 2019, Lilly completed a Master’s Degree in Language and Communication, in which she researched and advocated for communication rights and the importance of person-centred care. Lilly has a particular interest in supporting children and young people living with mental health difficulties and learning disabilities, often taking creative approaches in this. Lilly is a strong believer that everyone has a right to independence and thrives to support her clients in achieving this.
Lilly currently provides a range of assessments, consultation and therapeutic interventions for children, adolescents and young adults in the Seirrah Therapies clinic, in schools and in homes across the UK. Lilly has experience of conducting assessments and writing reports as part of the Special Educational Needs (SEN) Tribunal process in collaboration with our Highly Specialist Paediatric Occupational Therapist.