Social Accessibility

At Direct Access, we champion how positive social experiences can have a resulting positive impact on the lives of disabled people. Highlighting the importance of social accessibility is in turn key to achieving this.

Ranging from the emotional well-being of individual disabled people to wider perceptions of inclusivity in the public consciousness, the impact that social access can create is equal to that of site owners installing a wheelchair simply because the Equality Act demands it of them. But instead of merely following a blueprint set out by the government, the idea of social accessibility takes a little more effort, because it’s rooted in people and our deep-rooted perceptions. It demands that we dissolve stereotypes of disabled people, and see them for what they are. People.

So what is social accessibility? Simply, it is the perception of disabled people in our world.

Ideally, social accessibility represents equal opportunities, both in the literal sense of workplace equality and diversity, but also in the choice of interactions that disabled people can have within the physical world. For instance, if disabled people are not disempowered by the physical structures of supermarkets, banks, theatres, concert venues etc, only then can they truly transcend false and ableist perceptions within our world that present barriers within social environments. 

It is not the fault of the disabled person that the structures of society make empowerment harder for them. In fact, all we need to do is examine prejudices disabled people have broadly endured historically to get a sense of this. For example, the idea that a disabled person is lesser or inferior for needing “special” requirements, or perceptions rooted in cultural depictions that disabled people are defined by their disability. That they are feeble, pitiful, laughable, outcasts, or, under the lens of positive discrimination, tragic but brave.

The issue with social accessibility, and why we believe that it does not enjoy immediate improvement the way that the physical environment does currently, is that it is conceptual by nature.

When it comes to social accessibility, there is less regulation, less legislation, and less tangibility, and therefore, most site owners will not begin to consider how they can be at the forefront of what is, arguably, a “pillar” of best practice accessibility. Though it is the most lacking of these pillars in society (the others are the physical, social, and digital environment), it is incidentally the least important among private businesses, which are the backbone of our capitalist society.

Though much has been achieved these past few years when it comes to inclusive representations within culture and media, such as an increased prevalence of race and gender representation, ableism is still prevalent in society in ways that are not often spoken about. This is largely due to a lack of physical and sensory accessibility, which are instrumental in improving public perceptions of disability as a whole. 

For example, if a deaf cashier can take orders from a customer using accessible technology without the need for direct verbal communication, or a blind warehouse operative can identify different types of products in a store room by their braille signage, suddenly, common narratives of disabled people being largely incapable are challenged, and through exposure to these accessible solutions, non-disabled people are then more knowledgeable about the true capabilities of a disabled person.

Perceptions of disabled people are directly linked with their well-being. And if research shows that knowing a disabled person makes a considerable difference in non-disabled people’s attitudes, that is specifically why we must encourage not only representations of disabled people within cultural frameworks such as social media, cinema, and sport, but go further and increase the visibility of disabled people in everyday society. 

Businesses can do this in multiple ways, and many of them offer direct benefits to their bottom line. Improving enrollment processes to include different accessible formats, asking directly if a person requires any personal adjustments, and offering a quiet space for autistic, hyperacusis, misophonia, or anxiety are all low-cost ways to encourage disabled people to meaningfully engage in society and increase diversity. On a social level, adjusting workplace environments in this way gives disabled people the platform to prove that they can provide just as much value as the non-disabled person.

While improving education and opportunity for disabled people on an institutional level is helpful, even this isn’t enough to create social inclusion on a broad scale.

A frequent barrier faced among young disabled people, for instance, is bullying and social exclusion during in their youth. Even for a non-disabled person, feeling included within their social groups is integral to the development of a healthy outlook on the world and self-esteem. But across many cultures, a disabled child (particularly those with cognitive disabilities) is perceived less positively than those with physical disabilities, and will consequently suffer from low self-esteem, isolation, and a lack of motivation to achieve anything perceived as socially valuable. One of which, as alluded to earlier, is our ability to work.

Identifying ways to improve perceptions of disabled people is often viewed through the lens of the Social Model, which in contrast to the perception of disabled people through the Medicinal Model (that physical or psychological dysfunction is an abnormality rather than simply a difference) is the first step in creating a more inclusive world for disabled people and reducing the social stigma that follows disabled people wherever they go.

However, we take the view that disability is not that simple. We cannot deny the biological roots of many disabilities, but we must also recognise that disability is only considered as such within the context of our social structures. Biological, psychological, and societal factors, each limit a person’s individual functioning to some extent. But we can work to improve this by considering ableism within our workplaces, education environments, and less tangible structures like social hierarchies.

At Direct Access, our bottom line is in the belief that disabled people reserve the right to live fulfilling lives, which means critically reviewing all aspects of our world that a non-disabled person reserves the right to experience. Realistically, an accessibility audit, with guidelines rooted in Government guidance, and delivered by experienced disabled people, is the first step towards true inclusion.

If you want to join us on this journey, get in touch with us today. Or look at our various Access Consultancy options to see how we can hep you make your site inclusive to all.


Direct Access Consultancy Limited
Suite GB
Pepper House
Market Street
5 South Charlotte Street

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