Businesses like to think of themselves as customer-focused. But when it comes to provisions for people with disabilities, in practical terms, they are often lacking.
“Access often comes as an afterthought. And its secondary status often means that, in effect, if you’re a person with disabilities you’re getting second class treatment,” observes Huw Chance.
Huw is a notable athlete, being an ex-wheelchair rugby player for Wales in both sevens and league and having played at the four nations in both disciplines. He now runs a property consultancy, FLOMP, in Bristol.
Are You Missing the Point?
“I’ve been in plenty of places where disability provision has followed guidelines. But in the end, it has failed because it doesn’t actually work properly in real life situations”
Experience in property has given Huw real insights into the failings of disability provision, as has his role in sport.
“You play hard, at a demanding level, but off the pitch there’s 40 of you sharing a single disabled toilet, or finding it difficult to get a wheelchair into the actual changing room,” he states. “There’s a disconnect here, whereby as soon as you leave the pitch you’re back to being a second-class citizen.”
Are You Engaging the End User?
Listening to your customers should go deeper than simply gathering feedback, because the customer experience may be very different than what you imagine it to be.
“In retail and hospitality people with disabilities can face a range of obstacles, from poorly placed shop displays to indifferent staff. Disability access should be driven economically. I want people to take my money because they’re serving me properly, even if their access isn’t the best”
In other words, access provision should not be a box-ticking exercise, but should be about empathy and perception.
“If you go somewhere and the disabled entrance is at the back, as if you’re being hidden from view, what message does that send?” Huw remarks.
“Disabilities range from the physical to the mental, and include things like visual impairment, so it’s not simply a case of fitting a few ramps and a disabled toilet,” continues Huw.
When it comes down to it, proper inclusivity of people with disabilities means involving them at the development stage, taking their opinions on board when designing and installing the facilities which they, after all, will be using.
“Focus on the end user more than just building regulations,” Huw advises. “That way you’re dealing with the reality of the situation, and improving it.”
Property Aspects appreciates Huw Chance’s contribution to this article.