It may be chilly outside, but that didn’t stop Britain from celebrating the first Disabled Access Day. On the 17 January, people with disabilities were challenged by brother-sister duo Euan and Kiki McDonald to look beyond their reliable haunts and explore somewhere they’ve never visited before. As the creators of Euan’s Guide, which provides disabled access reviews for venues around the country, the McDonalds were the driving force behind the event that set out to prove that universal disabled access opens doors to the commercial power that the 11.6 million disabled people in the UK represent.
Demonstrations of the value disabled patrons can bring to businesses are still globally relevant, as Italy took a step backwards from their pledge to improve accessibility at public venues and heritage sites, citing ‘lack of funding.’ In 2013, the Ministry of Culture committed to improving accessibility, following the United Nations recognition that accessibility is a key area of global sustainable tourism. A grassroots movement has sprung up with the invention of an app that allows Italian citizens to report any barriers to accessibility in their cities and towns, which currently receives five reports per day in Rome.
But what makes good accessibility? The Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates followed China’s lead and approved the final design for bank notes that would be circulated in Braille. The UAE has committed to improving banking services for the visually impaired, following the news that banks frequently require blind people to have guardian supervision when opening accounts. But the use of braille on banknotes can be controversial, as the marks wear over time, and only a minority of people with vision-impairments understand Braille. Whether this change is enough to accommodate all citizens with visual impairments remains to be seen.
But there was brighter news elsewhere, as January also saw the release of ‘Sign Language for Beginners’, the first dictionary of Indian Sign Language. Arun C Rao estimates there are around 25 million deaf or hard of hearing people in India, but only a small number are fluent in sign language. Building on his website, The Deaf Way, and his YouTube videos that promote and teach Indian Sign Language, Rao and the Department for Empowerment of Disabled and Senior Citizens are committed to ensuring the dictionary is made widely available in teaching syllabuses and libraries.
And finally, the UK has received a huge boost for disabled actors. Channel 4 has kick-started a new initiative to promote actors and creators from minority backgrounds. “ Diversity has to be a consideration right at the start where programmes are commissioned,” said Oona King, the new Diversity Executive for the channel. This move opens opportunities for more television that’s inclusive of disability, potentially overturning the status quo that sees many disabled roles filled by able-bodied actors.
Written by Rebecca Worboyes, Captioner