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Saturday, 7 September 2019

Good... better... best

When I was in teaching, there were fashions around how we marked children's work. I can't remember what it was called, but one of them worked on the principle of good... better... best. It went rather than this.

It's good that you used adjectives to describe the characters. It would be better if you thought of some more interesting adjectives. What is the best word you could use to describe dad, instead of 'nice'?

This week, we had our two team away days. Because we are having some building works done at the office, there were no meeting rooms available and we had to go offsite. So we booked a room at the local Toby Carvery. Neil and I often use Toby Carvery for meals out, as they are generally okay from an accessibility point of view. That thought triggered a marking process... So here I go, marking Toby Carvery on their accessibility. Of course, they might vary, so this is just the one we were at this week.


It was good that:

  • you had plenty of accessible parking spaces, with hatchings on both sides
  • the car park is well surfaced
  • there was a ramp on both sides of the steps to get up to the front door
  • there were no steps inside the building
  • there was enough space to get around the building in a wheelchair
  • the staff were very helpful but not patronising (they were particularly good at not assuming I'm incapable of doing things for myself)
  • staff interacted appropriately with my assistance dog - welcoming but left her alone to do her job
  • the accessible toilet had a radar lock
  • the accessible toilet was clean and spacious
  • the carvery area was wide enough to get through and was clean
  • the lady who greeted me found out allergy information for me quickly and accurately.

It would be better if:
  • the ramps were smooth (asphalt) rather than higgledy-piggledy paving stones
  • the front doors were automatic
  • the carpets were replaced with wooden floors (easier to clean and easier to propel over)
  • the toilet roll holder allowed the toilet roll to go round, instead of you having to bend at a painful angle and put your hand up inside it and fight to get any toilet roll
  • the highchairs were not stored right outside the accessible toilet.

If you want to make your business/service accessible for wheelchair users, what is the best thing to do?

For me, there are only a few things you need to think about:
  • Parking and getting inside - consider electric and manual wheelchairs, as well as assistance dogs. Wheelchair users do need more space than you might think. Many places have double doors. Please don't lock one of them! Wheelchairs generally need to open both.
  • Moving around the building - again allow more space than you immediately think is necessary. When positioning tables and chairs, think about the space that is left when a large person is sitting at the table, rather than when the chairs are pushed right under. Also be aware that self-propelling over carpet is rather like expecting you to wade through knee-deep treacle. It is hard work! Hard floors are better.
  • Staff attitudes - training is essential! All staff should know how to communicate in a way that is helpful but not patronising. Please remember that we get through normal daily activities every day. Things that you think are difficult might not be at all difficult for us. Don't assume we need help with every little thing but be willing to help if asked.
  • Toilets - it should be obvious but we need to be able to get to the toilet, into the toilet and out of the toilet, without any obstacles or barriers. Remember that many wheelchair users have limited movement, so putting toilet roll behind the toilet or in an awkward place can cause big problems. Also remember we use our hands to propel, so if the hand dryer is broken, please put a sign up. Once our hands are soaking wet, we're stuck. It's very difficult to propel with sopping wet hands! Make sure the toilet seat is secure, sudden movements can be agony for back injuries. Same with grab rails - we use them because we have reduced/no lower body strength. They need to be able to take body weight without giving way. Toilets need to be clean. Making the toilet roll easy to use helps with this. We don't like sitting in pee on the seat and cleaning it is probably more painful and difficult than for an able-bodied person. Radar locks prevent the toilet being used by everyone. This helps keep it available and also helps keep it clean.
  • Assistance dogs - it should go without saying that you can't deny access to an assistance dog, and they don't have to sit in the dog-friendly area. We may deliberately sit away from other dogs, so that the assistance dog isn't distracted by them. It's nice to be offered a bowl of water, though many owners will bring their own bowl. If you want to be extra helpful, consider providing toileting areas. There are 3 likely surfaces that assistance dogs prefer to toilet on: grass, pebble or bark. How hard would it be to provide a small area with each of these? Oh... and a bin nearby to put our little black bags in!
Do you notice which of these areas is the biggest? After making access into the building possible, if I was an owner, deciding on priorities, I would prioritise the toilets. It seems a small thing but makes a huge difference! Most restaurants only have one accessible toilet but several ladies/gents. Having two accessible toilets would be best. That way, if someone is already in there (especially if it is also the baby change) there is an alternative. Also, if something goes wrong and one becomes out of order... well it's obvious!