The British public are kind and generous, have buckets of common sense, and value fairness. We are known for it; other nations sometimes take the micky out of us for it. We have an enormous charity sector and a culture of volunteering and caring for others. As a consequence, our nation has often been one to show leadership and be a catalyst for human improvement around the globe. It is because of that that I am optimistic that we can deliver fairness in our own country for disabled people in a variety of ways, including tackling inaccessibility.
We have a massive task at hand to ensure our nation really is fair in this respect. Too many in our society have their options and opportunities closed down due to physical barriers which prevent them from having a social life, freedom to shop and visit where they’d like and restrict their ability to travel - all of which prevent people pursuing their dreams and talents. This jars with our nation’s values. There is often shock and outrage once inequalities like these are revealed to those who do not face them on a daily basis. I want us to take that outrage to turn it into positive action, to change these parts of inaccessible Britain forever.
There are many things we need to do to achieve this. We in government need to ensure that the law is enforced. Business needs to recognise the opportunities that come with providing services and products to currently poorly served disabled customers, which our latest figures show have a spending power of near £200bn. But we need more. We need people power.
We need you to care and more importantly, to act. We need every person, whether they are disabled or not, to ensure this agenda gets the focus it needs. Much has already been done by some amazing organisations and businesses to help disabled consumers, but this week marks the start of a new effort to make the UK more accessible than ever.
This Thursday we’re bringing together disabled people, designers and coders to develop technological solutions to these issues. Our accessibility hack, similar to a ‘life hack’, will discuss ideas which could literally changes lives. Wouldn’t it be great if there were products that enabled people to collect information about venues, services and companies, which disabled consumers could use when choosing where to dine, shop and visit? It would build on the excellent work and services already provided by Euan’s Guide and others. Products like these can ensure that disabled people’s choices act as a clear message to those companies which take their needs into account, and a clear message to those who don’t.
When people pick up the bill at a restaurant I want them to clock the disabled access and loo, then tell everyone about it. I am optimistic that many, when choosing where to buy their lunch, will settle on the sandwich chain which a map, or possibly an app, says has committed to providing disabled access in all its outlets. By enabling consumers to make these choices we will speed up the pace of change.
That all requires greater public awareness. You can help us build that now. Please follow our initiatives as we continue to promote best practice across different sectors and to tackle these issues through our sector champions. This week, you can support our Accessibility event, and tweet your support using #Hackcessibility. We want business to recognise change is needed and on the way, and that they need to be prepared for it. And we want this issue to have a much higher profile.
I am sure that given both the awareness of these continuing wrongs and the tools to help right them, the great British public will want to help. And we need them to if we are to have a nation which actually practices what it holds dear: fairness for all. Let’s all work together to achieve that. We can and we must.