This Saturday (17th January) has been designated as Disabled Access Day by some voluntary sector organisations. They have a very useful website and suggestions for all of us to consider. As I have written before I have attended a group called Loop up Lewes which is intended to improve the availability and use of hearing loops for people in Lewes who are dependent on hearing aids for their communication with others. One retailer outside of Lewes having invested in some equipment and put signs up to indicate their use of the equipment had then failed to train its staff in the use of the equipment. This Saturday is an ideal opportunity for those of us concerned about access to buildings and services to challenge one another to improve our facilities and use of any equipment. This should be something that is welcomed by the Minister of State for Disabled People. He is Mark Harper, MP for Forest of Dean who in September launched the Accessible Britain Challenge, where he claimed that he was “challenging local communities, organisations, councils, and businesses to make their local communities more accessible and more inclusive for disabled people”. However since September the Disability News Service has uncovered information that suggests that Mr Harper works from a constituency office that is not easily accessible for people who rely on wheelchairs to get around. The article does not report on the availability of a loop system in the office. However it is clear from the article that Mr Harper no longer wishes to debate access issues with groups that are rightly concerned about such matters.
There is plenty all of us can do to improve access to our businesses and services for the 21% of society who responded to the census in 2011 by stating that they had a disability. This Saturday is a good provocation to make the changes that we have been meaning to implement for some time. Let us hope that some of our Political representatives will use this impending event to ask their own Minister if he will respond to his own challenge and use this Saturday as a reason to make his office accessible?