Why Accessibility Is So Important

The post title over a blue and grey background with icons depicting different people or conditions, like a person in a wheelchair, a pregnant lady and an ear.

Accessibility at home and in the world at large is vital in enabling everyone to live as fully and comfortably as possible, providing somewhat closer to equal and fair access and usability for all. Here’s a look at what being accessible means and why it’s so important.

What Does It Mean To Be Accessible? 

Any place, product and activity can cause an accessibility problem. Accessibility applies to both the offline and online worlds. Transport, buildings, products, services and activities should be available to all, and accessibility may sometimes mean that such things need to be adapted to ensure that happens. Making something accessible should make things easier or remove barriers to its use.

The Cambridge English Dictionary may define it more eloquently than I : Accessibility is “the fact of being able to be reached or obtained easily” & “the quality of being easy to understand.”

Being accessible should mean that nobody is excluded from doing or using something, and they should be able to do so with a reasonably equal amount of effort and time as those without a disability.

Perhaps the mostly commonly thought of requirement for accessibility is for wheelchairs. There are also various other conditions and disabilities that can be included here, from individuals that are sight impaired, blind or deaf, to those with learning disabilities, stomas, autism, and those needing walkers and sticks. The list goes on. 

Assistive devices and technology can help enable access for those with disabilities, illnesses or special needs. This could be anything from easy to use lightweight wheelchairs to text-to-speech reading technology.

A woman in a wheelchair being pushed by a man. It looks like spring, and they're next to a small river and beyond that trees and a big white house or block of flats.

Making something accessible isn’t a one size fits all approach. What’s accessible for one person may be inaccessible for another. It’s also worth remembering that not all who need accessibility features have a visible disability because many invisible disabilities and illnesses also exist.

What Types of Accessibility Issues Can People Face?

Given the myriad of health issues and disabilities in existence, there are various ways in which people can face challenges, be they practical, visual, legal or auditory ones.

Those in wheelchairs can face issues with a lot of things that those without can ordinarily take for granted. For example, narrow or uneven pavements. Not enough dedicated wheelchair space on a bus or train. Doorways that aren’t wide enough, or lack of step-free access and no ramps. Stairs without a lift alternative. Small rooms and corridors without the space for manoeuvring. Limited disabled toilets. Tables and seating areas that aren’t wheelchair-friendly.

In addition to wheelchairs there are various other disabilities and chronic health conditions that may make usual day to day activities and places more challenging. Taking the example of toilets, I posted previously about public and disabled toilets for invisible conditions such as stomas and any other bowel, bladder or mobility condition.

The elderly and anyone with mobility or balance issues can find stairs to be a painful, difficult or challenging prospect. Likewise, buildings without exterior step-free access can be problematic. 

A picture of a bright pink sign with a wheelchair, arrow pointing right and the words 'step free route', standing upright on the grass.

Homes themselves should be ergonomic and yet most new builds still sadly fall short of being even close to disability-friendly. It’s been reported that only 7% of the housing stock in England meet even the basic, minimal requirements of accessibility to be classed a ‘visitable’ by a person with a disability.

Those with visual or hearing impairments can face issues with crossing roads or navigating open spaces safely, where the likes of tactile paving, public transport audio announcements and braille are important. 

Individuals with autism may be confronted with chaos in any situation with no staff to respond with awareness and appropriate support. 

It’s also important to think of the smaller things, like the products we use in our day to day lives, be that a can of soup or TV remote. Conceptual product design should take into consideration how ergonomic something is to use. To help bridge the gaps of inaccessibility, there are assistive products to help make things more manageable, from easy-grip handles for saucepans to mobiles with larger buttons.

Everything under the umbrellas of education and employment can potentially throw up barriers, such as the way in which education is delivered, the seating provided at work, and the rights employees have. 

Issues of accessibility can be found online, too, with users navigating learning, shopping, memes, blogs, booking tickets, and so on. Technology, social media and the web need to be accessible for all, whether someone has neurological, cognitive-motor, auditory or visual disabilities.

Accessibility issues with public transport, holidays, playgrounds, lack of disabled parking…

There’s so much. You could probably think of just about anything and find a potential challenge. 

The Cost Of Inaccessibility 

A 23 year old man with cerebral palsy reported that he did “not feel human” because he couldn’t get on trains thanks to many platforms being inaccessible in a wheelchair. 21% of Welsh train stations, and 39% in the UK, don’t have step-free access, despite new standards that meant all trains within the UK should have been fully accessible by the start of 2020. 

Being accessible often comes at a cost. Of course there’s a price put on most adaptions and adjustments, but I’d argue that it’s more than worth it, especially when you consider how high the cost of inaccessibility is.

Being inaccessible may have a physical and emotional impact. It can prevent an individual doing something altogether or limit their regularity of use. It can hold people back from life, socialising, leisure activities, employment and education.

The cost of inaccessibility could be anywhere from an annoyance, frustration and inconvenience, to being able to humiliate, invalidate and exclude individuals.

Nobody should feel like that. Nobody should feel they have to miss out or struggle because the social world is created one way and they it need another way for it to work for them. 

An Accessible World

It may seem too optimistic, but I do think we can all hope for a truly accessible world one day because that would be a beautiful place. Those with disabilities, health conditions, learning difficulties and special needs wouldn’t feel like they have to be special cases, wondering what problems they’ll face at every turn. Individuals would feel empowered and included. 

Small steps forward can add up, like bringing more awareness to the issue, campaigning for change, and highlighting areas of concern or improvement to companies and services. All of these gradual steps forward, no matter how small, can help in moving us towards that more accessible world. 

A digital image that's blue with black silhouettes of several different people of different heights lined up, including a person in a wheelchair in the middle

Caz  ♥

Do you face any accessibility issues? Are there any particular areas that you think need more improvements or awareness?

[ This is a collaborative post written by myself ]

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34 Comments

  1. April 2, 2020 / 4:10 pm

    It’s so very important to have accessibility. And each person has a different need. I hear you.

    Have a fabulous day, Caz. ♥

    • April 3, 2020 / 2:54 pm

      Absolutely. Thank you, Sandee. Have a safe, restful weekend  ♥ xx

  2. April 2, 2020 / 4:19 pm

    Caz, you would think that twnety years into a new century the disabled would not be facing this problem, especially on public transportation. I was recently reading reports about New York City and their accessibility problems.

    The Metropolitan Transit Authority claims 114 of their 427 train stations have elevators or paths for the disabled.
    Aparently, only 42 stations have it. Sad, that this has never been resolved.

    • April 3, 2020 / 3:10 pm

      Only 42 out of 427 stations? That’s a shameful statistic. You’re right, you’d think in this day and age in developed countries the reality would be far better than it is. Thanks for the comment, Drew.x

  3. Ashley
    April 2, 2020 / 5:08 pm

    This is such an important issue, and yet it shouldn’t even be an issue at all on this day and age.

    • April 3, 2020 / 3:16 pm

      You wouldn’t think so, especially in developed countries that have the skill and finances to make things better. It’s pretty disappointing in 2020 to be seeing the statistics for how inaccessible so much still is. x

  4. April 2, 2020 / 5:10 pm

    Terrific. So important for EVERYONE to understand, whether you go through it or not – understanding means so much.

    • April 3, 2020 / 4:03 pm

      You’re so right in that. You don’t have to have the need for accessibility to understand and appreciate its importance. Thanks for the comment! x

    • violaetcetera
      April 3, 2020 / 7:42 pm

      The “cost of inaccessibility” is often overlooked. My bad hearing makes some things inaccessible for me, and it’s sometimes hard to insist on it.
      Have a wonderful weekend, Caz XX.

  5. April 2, 2020 / 5:52 pm

    Accessibility is a must but often overlooked. I remember your post on public toilets and people with invisible conditions. It reminded me some people have health problems we cannot see. This awareness should be applied to people at risk from COVID 19. A younger person shopping during a time when seniors are present may have a condition that allows them to be present also.

    • April 3, 2020 / 4:04 pm

      While the virus can affect anyone and everyone, it does seem that certain folks are more vulnerable and you’re right in how that plays in to health conditions and accessibility, that’s an excellent point. Thank you for sharing this, Darnell! Stay safe x

  6. April 2, 2020 / 6:47 pm

    Just like many others, I’ve found certain inaccessibility problems – I’ll mention just this one – my disorder isn’t always visible or people think I’m drunk will deny me access to the toilets.

    Not sure if anyone knows about the Radar comfort keys and badges you can apply for – which will help you unlock disabled toilets / http://www.ncphlexicare.com/claim-your-free-blue-heart-badge

    or the lanyard you can use in airports so staff are aware that you need support. I love this one and have been treated like Royalty sometimes. https://hiddendisabilitiesstore.com/products-19.html

    • April 3, 2020 / 5:45 pm

      I’m so sorry you have to face such issues, and it’s awful how quickly some can judge and make another feel awful by doing so, such is the case when people think you’re drunk. Thank you for the links, these will be super helpful for others, too! I have a radar key and a sunflower lanyard, which I drafted a post about a while ago but alas have not yet finished and published, so thanks for the reminder! Excellent comment, thank you – have a restful weekend lovely and stay safe 🌷xx

  7. April 2, 2020 / 9:24 pm

    I too, Caz, hope that world of ‘fair justice for all’ comes sooner rather than later. There are encouraging steps here and there. Many now do appreciate the needs of all, though, it would be lovely if the signs of that were more evident everywhere!
    As you may remember, I have a grandson who is autistic. He has struggled all his life with social scenes. In the main, though, shop keepers, waiters and the like are sensitive to his disability. I believe this is because he presents quite well – his mother has been an excellent teacher. Not all have this advantage. Many, I’m sure, with varied disabilities remain isolated and withdrawn without someone to act as an advocate. Removing, at least, the physical disadvantages would go a long way to improving the overall quality of life for so many.
    What a great advocate you are for so many, Caz. You do brilliant work with your open, honest and informative writings. As I’ve often said – It is a pleasure to know you!
    xoxoxo

    • April 4, 2020 / 3:17 pm

      You’re right, Carolyn, there are definitely encouraging things being done even though there’s still a way to go. I’m glad your grandson typically meets staff that are aware and able to respond appropriately, and I imagine his mother’s influence has been a huge benefit to him that will see him through life. I bet your own influence on your family has been one of significant wisdom and positivity, too. Thank you for such a thoughtful, fab comment! Stay safe xx

  8. April 2, 2020 / 9:34 pm

    Great post Caz, I was just talking with my son not too long ago about how with todays technology those who are homebound have access to things that were not available before, like audio books, and online shopping, movies that you can download, face time, but of course we’re far from having better availability for all and I hope that we are moving in that direction, there is no reason in todays world why we’re not living in a world that is accessible to all and includes all. Everyone should feel “empowered and included. ” Thank you for bringing this to our awareness. Stay well <3

    • April 4, 2020 / 3:20 pm

      There’s certainly no denying how much technology has changed the world and our resulting way of life, including for those with disabilities because with more awareness has come more impetus on accessibility in the online and offline worlds, even if there’s still much work to be done. Thank you for the comment, Masha, it’s much appreciated 🌷 x

  9. April 3, 2020 / 2:08 am

    I’m totally with you, Caz. A fully accessible world would be a beautiful place, indeed.

    Annie xx

    • April 4, 2020 / 3:23 pm

      It really would, wouldn’t it?  ♥

  10. April 3, 2020 / 5:52 pm

    absolutely – in some ways we’ve come a long way, particularly with portable oxygen, better prosthetics & wheelchairs — there are times I’m almost run over by speeding wheelchairs at the market & am amazed at how someone parking their van, getting out of ramp, etc., will be into & out of the store quicker than I am — & yet we’ve still got a long way to go

    • April 4, 2020 / 3:28 pm

      That’s so true and it’s important to celebrate the achievements and the changes over the years because some people (those making the changes, campaigning for awareness, making a difference in any small or big way) have done brilliantly. But yes, there’s still a way to go and sadly that’s at a high cost to a lot of people. Thanks for the comment, da-AL! xx

  11. April 4, 2020 / 12:40 pm

    This is so important and beautifully written, Caz. I’m in a wheelchair, and there are things I’ve missed out on because of inaccessibility. An example would be a museum we went to as a family. It turned out to be a very old building, and there were lots of stairs to get up to the front door with no other means available. When we asked if there was wheelchair accessibility, we were told sorry, but no. I pretended it was no big deal, and encouraged the others to go anyway. This is just one example, though. Don’t get me started on public restrooms. lol

    • April 7, 2020 / 3:52 pm

      See, that sort of thing shouldn’t happen. While we can appreciate older buildings being harder to adapt for accessibility, surely a ramp to get in could have been possible because they could use a temporary one without needing any permanent installations. I’m so sorry you’ve had to be excluded from things because of the wheelchair, I imagine there have been a lot of times like this. xx

  12. April 5, 2020 / 9:53 pm

    Really beautiful post. It’s easy to take one’s unfettered accessibility for granted. Recently I saw a post about a girl who was sewing face masks for the deaf and hard of hearing. The area in front of the mouth was clear. That came after a deaf relative shared a post warning those hard of hearing to bring necessary documents and notes, pen and paper, to the hospital or doctor should you have to go. Since everyone is wearing masks now the deaf and hard of hearing can’t read mouths as they may be accustomed to. I had not thought about that fact because I don’t have to but my compassion grew for them. The more I learn about accessibility the better I feel I can be. I understand the importance of not parking too close to a handicap space; people need to be able to maneuver in and around their vehicle. So don’t park anywhere in a space marked for handicapped folks.

    I feel for every one of you juggling these issues. You’re strong for pushing on and finding the joy in life even as you may be different. You’re poised to show us all what it is to soldier on through. Thank you for sharing this, may I keep my eyes open ever wider to the struggles of others.

    Stay well and safe!

    • April 7, 2020 / 3:56 pm

      What an important point about the masks covering the signs needed for many deaf and hard of hearing. Admittedly I hadn’t even thought of that, though not many here in the UK are wearing masks given the debate as to whether they’re needed. But that’s certainly a barrier to communication. You’re right too about how the more aware you become of issues, the more you can appreciate how your own actions can either help or hinder others, even in small ways. This is such a beautiful comment, thank you so much for sharing, it’s much appreciated. Stay safe x

  13. April 6, 2020 / 3:47 pm

    I believe we will get there eventually; hopefully sooner rather than later. I notice tiny changes here and there. Awareness is everything. This is such a lovely, thoughtful post, Caz. Thank You! Stay safe!!!

    • April 7, 2020 / 4:00 pm

      Those small changes need to be celebrated because they all add up, you’re right. Thanks for the comment, Katy! 😊 xx

  14. April 6, 2020 / 5:40 pm

    “Nobody should feel like that. Nobody should feel they have to miss out or struggle because the social world is created one way and they it need another way for it to work for them”. <— This says everything❣

    • April 7, 2020 / 4:03 pm

      I’m glad you thought so, thank you! ♥ x

  15. April 9, 2020 / 6:27 pm

    Another fantastic post Caz, well done raising awareness of the difficulties that so many people face!

    • April 10, 2020 / 3:48 pm

      Thank you, Marie! I’m glad you liked it  ♥ xx

  16. April 10, 2020 / 7:23 am

    Great post to raise awareness of accessibility issues. I have come across a lot of these in the workplace, but thankfully I work for an employer who is prepared to pay to remove these barriers. Not many are so lucky though. More needs to be done in this day and age and I fear it will take time to get to where we want to be.

    • April 10, 2020 / 3:50 pm

      I’m sorry you’ve come across a lot of issues but it’s great your current employer is willing to face the challenges and do what it takes to make some positive changes. You’re right, it’s going to take a lot of time but hopefully bit by bit things will continue to improve.. Thanks for the comment, Alice! 😊 xx

  17. May 4, 2020 / 9:00 am

    A truly accessible world would be wonderful because apart from the obvious advancages, I would have so much free time to spend on other things! I currently spend that time working on alternative plans and strategies to work around the inaccessible things.
    Improving accessibility can be expensive, but there are also little things that can be done that don’t cost anything, but that make a huge difference to people with access needs.
    Thanks for starting a conversation about this. xx

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