Disabled Access Day 2019 - Reflections from the Founder
The weather was a challenge as people ventured out to try something new on Disabled Access Day. It threw everything from snow in Edinburgh through to high winds and choppy seas into the mix. Not put off by cold, wet and breezy conditions so many disabled people and their friends and families ventured out on the mission of #YouAndSomewhereNew
For those who haven’t heard the story, Disabled Access Day came about when Paul Ralph, the Founder, wanted to try out his new powerchair on a bus. This was not something he’d done before so the challenge of where do you sit, how do you get on, how do tickets work and how to get off stopped him having a try. That is until, visiting an open day at the local bus depot, he got to test out getting his wheelchair on the bus, and off the bus, and on the bus, and off the bus, you get the picture. He described this as a very liberating experience.
From one experience came the thought of what if we could create more opportunities where people were finding it difficult to try things out in the hustle and bustle of daily life? Some years later, we have just celebrated the fourth Disabled Access Day.
Last Spring saw castles, a canal boat, horse riding centres, museums, galleries, a palace, an airport, a water park, trams, buses, places to stay and places to play, and even hovercraft joined forces to create opportunities for people to try new things and have new experiences.
Disabled people and their friends and family took up the challenge and visited locations across the country. Visiting amazing events like those in Blackpool where Sandcastle Waterpark held an accessible evening. Blackpool zoo joined in, the bus and tram depot opened its doors and so much more.
Over in Leeds the William Merritt Centre, local buses, the John Charles sports centre and others offered a warm welcome. In Eastbourne the local access group took over the Beacon shopping centre with lots of the town’s organisations chatting about what they do. Demonstrations, a bus, wheelchair accessible vehicle, disability sports, and a visit from the Mayor.
Lovers of gardens and open spaces could visit the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, Kew Gardens and the Eden Project. If history was more your thing the castles of Edinburgh, St Andrews, and Stirling held events as did the majestic Hereford Cathedral and the National Trust’s Tredegar House and many more.
London was alive with events at Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Kew Gardens, the National Army Museum, Donmar Warehouse, Hampton Court Palace, the Tate and the unbelievable buzz at the Barbican.
It was amazing to see local communities, places and spaces coming together to do wonderful things. We loved hearing about the Umbrella Cafe in Whitstable and the SENsational choir, the people of Perth and their information events at the museum and gallery, with so much by so many it’s hard to list all the events as we loved them all!
Much to Paul’s delight many bus companies parked buses in key locations in towns and cities and offered get aboard sessions. With Harrogate, Blackpool, Leeds, Edinburgh, Brighton & Hove and many more taking Disabled Access Day back to its roots with try a bus sessions - Paul said “I’m so proud of the bus companies for doing this!”.
Using the hashtags #YouAndSomewhereNew and #AccessDay folk shared their pictures and stories across social media. Pictures flooded in from so many places and spaces we couldn’t begin to list them all. We enjoyed seeing all of them, and many brought a smile as we laughed and shared people’s enjoyment and fun.
All in all, over 150 places took part and we recorded over 13,000 disabled people and their friends and families taking part.
Paul wants Disabled Access Day to leave a legacy for others to follow. He is invited people to write about their adventures and share a photo or two on Euan’s Guide - www.euansguide.com - As he says, “If people can share their something new with a review, people can follow in their footsteps”.
And finally, the question people are asking just now - “When is the next Disabled Access Day?”. Paul tells us that the plans have started for the next Disabled Access Day in 2021 and you can sign up to receive all the news at www.disabledaccessday.com