Accessibility is an issue even for our leaders

At Direct Access, our mission is to guide people towards creating an accessible, disability-friendly society through education and action. However, at the same time, we appreciate that creating a just and equal society for disabled people takes time, patience, and money to adapt to the challenges. Over the years, we have guided many businesses, charities, schools, office blocks, museums, and world expositions towards equal access environments that cater to the needs of disabled people. Though many of them were not aware of the issues these facilities presented for people with disabilities, one thing we can say they do have in common is the knowledge that change was required to begin with – whether for their own financial benefit or simply because it was the right thing to do.

It is for this reason that we are shocked to learn of the reports that this week’s COP26 summit, a gathering of world leaders on the topic of one of society’s most pressing issues (climate change) was not accessible for Minister Karine Elharrar, who is a wheelchair user. The UK’s Environment Secretary, George Eustice, said the incident was “deeply regrettable” and the government had apologized to Ms Elharrar – who has muscular dystrophy.

Our Senior Access Consultant, Tom Morgan, who is himself a wheelchair user comments; “I am sure that many disabled people know exactly how Israeli Minister, Karine Elharrar, felt when she could not attend the COP26 summit on Monday.  I think she used all her considerable diplomatic skills to tweet that it was “sad” the UN “does not provide accessibility to its events”.  Regardless of the size and complexity of an event, it is essential that suitable accessibility arrangements are in place to meet the needs of disabled people. In 2021 disabled people should be confident that they can access and participate fully without having to declare their needs and requirements beforehand.  Don’t place the burden on disabled people to make you aware of their requirements place the emphasis on providing accessibility in the design and management of the built environment.”

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