It probably seems obvious that including access details is important – how to get in to your building/where the entrance actually is, where to park, any limitations that need to be considered. And of course I could come up with a sexier title than above, such as “How to welcome more people to your event or shop or…” and “Stop making life so … difficult” – well, perhaps not that last one, but… I’ve tried to not rant in this post because this morning’s adventure highlighted some really useful stuff which may just be useful for you too, dear reader, if you can wade through it 😉
For most people getting into a building is not an issue. We can generally walk to wherever the correct entrance is, or park somewhere close enough and walk, or know where the bus stops are or train stations. Or if you’re not open when your website says you are we can just go to the next cafe. You get the idea – it’s easy.
I’m just getting used to the idea of being “disabled” – it is rather strange, quite frankly. I can get about with my stick and rollator (called Dolores) to support me and I understand my limits – after a certain distance it hurts more and that uses up a lot of energy which I need to consider for the rest of my day and week. But I can get about, more so now that I have a blue badge – since getting this I am indeed enabled to do more, because I don’t have to factor in the distance to park – it is unexpectedly positive and opens up a world of activity for me. I’m determined to be active again, in the community, networking for my business, in all ways possible, and anyone that makes this easier for me is more likely to get my business and attention. But why is this important – does it matter when we’re not talking about that many people? Well there are more of us than we might imagine:
There are over 11 million people with a limiting long term illness, impairment or disability. The most commonly-reported impairments are those that affect mobility, lifting or carrying. The prevalence of disability rises with age. Around 6% of children are disabled, compared to 16% of working age adults and 45% of adults over State Pension age.
If you include access information on your website, it is easier for anyone to visit you, do business with you, buy from you, whatever it is you want from your visitor. There is no reason why you’d not want my business, or my attendance, so why not make it easier, why not include that wider market
Today I went to my first networking event in years, and since becoming so mobility impaired. I was determined and keen to get out there again, to dip my toe into the business networking world. The office I went to had loads of disabled parking bays, which was encouraging, but then a high kerb with no obvious way to get past that – I’m sure there must be a dropped section, but I could not see it, so just how does a wheelchair user get in? I can get Dolores down such obstacles but for a wheelchair user I really could not see how they were supposed to get into the building. Anyone who wants to rent office space there or hold meetings or visit – might they want to be accessible to all visitors? I certainly do so today was not a waste of time having now learned that it’s not an option for office rental for me. I had come unprepared with the correct floor of the meetup and the receptionist was not aware, so I went home, having used up a good deal of today’s energy, but at least having understood that I need to be more certain of where I’m going.
Before this, though, I had tried the more obvious entrance, where I thought I was supposed to go, but that did not open until later, so I was in the wrong place – my fault, but I’d parked at street level so that I could check a cafe’s meeting room across the road, with a view to hiring this for training workshops, and as their website had stated they opened at 8.00am I figured it was worth the walk over to visit that. Except they do not open at 8.00am. So that extra walk, short though it might be and of no matter to most people, was another wastage of energy. It must be hard to understand how such awareness of one’s own energy matters, how it can make such a difference. Anyway – I moved the car to where I believed the venue entrance must be (which was not) and then realised where I probably did need to be and decided to spend a bit more energy in checking that. Someone should make a game about this, all this talk of energy levels and stuff… Well, I did not remember the floor I needed to go to, thinking it was at a business space on the floor below and the receptionist did not know about the event I was asking about. So I gave up then and came home, back to work. Not a total waste but a bit of a shame, really.
One of the most important books for anyone with a website has long been “Don’t Make Me Think” – about how to make it so simple for your website visitor to find exactly what they are looking for. Perhaps we now need the same approach to any venue to which we want to welcome anyone. So as well as people not having to think about where to find what they’re looking for on your website, go further and include anything that might be helpful for people visiting your office, cafe, venue, shop.
My venture out today has not encouraged me to get out there more, but I will because I’m determined, but will I go back to that particular meetup, I’m not sure. Aside from today’s waste of time and energy, the accessibility was not great and that puts me off – I’d rather go somewhere that is accessible for everyone.
It would be so easy to include more detailed instructions on how to get in, for the receptionist to know of an event going on – it’s left a bad feeling and a sense that some of us don’t actually matter enough for it to be made easy. Of course that is not true, it’s just not been thought about. And I did not used to be this unprepared, I must admit – I’d always plan and know exactly what I had to do – but it’s different now. I have less time available and there is apparently more preparation needed for a disabled person. And the people who see what needs to change are not the people with the energy to spare. Well my clients will be aware, they will know to include such simple information on their websites, because, well, why not? It matters.
What do your visitors need to be aware of? Perhaps have a think from a different perspective and offer tips and information to make it easier for them. Have the correct opening hours on your website. And if a wheelchair user needs to park somewhere in particular in order to get in to the building, include that information – it’s so simple, really…