Today’s (4 July 2016) piece by the Detail Data demonstrates that venues need to do a lot more to attract disabled customers and to value the ‘purple pound.  As the school holidays begin and we think about days out and places to go, how do we know what is accessible to disabled people?  Very often it involves ringing ahead, asking about access, and sometimes being given the wrong information.  The impact of that is considerable.  It means not getting to enjoy the activity, having to turn around and come home and the upset that brings with it. 

Although the Disability Discrimination Act has been in place for 20 years there are still issues for disabled people in accessing goods and services.  Whilst it is important that Government leads the way in improving access, it is also important that businesses and organisations play their role in making their services accessible and valuing disabled people as customers

The data from this survey is a snapshot of basic access information and not the experience of disabled people directly - but it does paint a picture of what is available and what still needs to be done. One of the key things that it does is give people information on what is available. Whether, it’s going to a sporting ground, a hotel or to the theatre, people need to know what is available so that they can choose where to go.

Dermot Devlin, owner of My Way Access (a local access blog) says;

"It is important that businesses are open and accessible to all parts of the community. People with disabilities make up 20% of the Northern Ireland population and to ask any business to write off one fifth of the population before starting makes absolutely no business or financial sense. Yet, this seems to be happening a lot with regards to people with disabilities. Whether that be in the consumer side of the market or employee side

Orla McCann, Assistant Director, Disability Action added,

"This is a very limited survey but it does give us a picture of the accessibility that is available in visitor attractions across NI.  Things have improved a lot over the past 20 years but there is still a way to go.  Service providers need to identify with people with a range of disabilities and do more to promote their services and facilities to disabled people.  Service providers also need to look at the training they provide for staff, does it include disability awareness training so that staff can provide good customer service?"

It is important that we respond to these issues collectively as a community.  Each of us has a responsibility to work to break down the barriers.  Whether that is an individual asking a local business to make adjustments to their services or government implementing strategies, there is a need for us all to work together. 

In the Draft Programme for Government, which is currently out for consultation, there is a specific indicator relating to people with disabilities.  The indicator states that Government will measure the quality of life of disabled people in Northern Ireland.  But the question Disability Action pose is what does that mean to you?  What impacts on your quality of life?  If we think of this from an access perspective what actions could government and others take to improve your quality of life? 


One of the biggest things that disabled people tell us is that attitudes need to change.  The attitude of people can make a real difference to accessibility; it's not just about changing the physical environment.  If a business or service responds positively to feedback from disabled customers then it really can make a difference.  It's about listening and learning from each other, disabled people are the experts in their own lives and can provide simple solutions that will break down barriers. 

Businesses and service providers also need to recognise the value of making their products and services accessible, not only does it mean they are reaching a customer group, but often disability access will improve access for everyone. 

Government has its role to play as well in ensuring that it promotes accessibility and attitudinal change and provides the resources to ensure that people can access their rights.

What next?

We want to hear from you - the data tells us a brief snapshot but we want to hear your experiences to bring the data to life.  Send us a comment on Facebook or Twitter or send us an email about the thing that would change. Please use the hastag #valueofaccess.

Sources of Support

There are a number of sources of help for service providers.  People should engage directly with people with disabilities to ensure that their services are accessible.  You could contact a local disability organisation to get their views on your service. 

My Way Access
is a local blog for disabled people, by disabled people that lists venues that have been visited by disabled people and their thoughts on access.

The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland currently have resources for small businesses and public authorities to help them improve their services.  The Every Customer Counts resources are available free.