On Saturday we had our second EaRN drop-in event around the theme of ‘accessibility’. I do not often personally find myself facing difficulty in accessing spaces or services around Edinburgh, and taking part in this event as an Equalities Ambassador really challenged me to think about the everyday through other people’s eyes and in other people’s bodies, to consider the various things that access might mean to the diverse population of this city.
The event was hosted at the ‘People Know How’ Community Space on the second floor of the Ocean Terminal Building in Leith. This is a fantastic free resource that is open to any members of the public or organisations in Edinburgh as a venue for events, workshops, discussions, or anything creative. The aim of our event was to open the space to any member of the public to share their experiences or comments on the theme of accessibility. We welcomed people to share their thoughts as openly as was comfortable, via an interview, to a video camera, or on post-it notes, and of course to join us for a cup of tea! For us the aim was to document something of the diversity of experience in accessing Edinburgh.
I was stationed within the shopping centre, to engage people and encourage them to visit the drop-in. Being in and watching a huge diversity of bodies interact with this space made me think. I always like moseying about in the shops in Edinburgh’s historic areas- large shopping centres do not attract me much! However I have never considered shopping as physically limiting. For many people, large shopping centres are accessible in a way that cobbled, kerbed streets and small spaces are not. What is attractive to me may be a fundamental barrier to others.
Accessibility is not just a question of physical limitation. There are many ‘rules’ to the systems we encounter that we take for granted if we are integrated into it, but these are not always made obvious and opened up to new users. Take the bus system- once you know how to operate it, it seems obvious, but imagine you had never seen or used a bus. Does the service provide unrestricted information that enables new users to easily access it? Accessibility might be about the format and availability of information or the attitudes of personnel.
This is a challenge for the proprietors of Edinburgh’s spaces or service providers. To avoid disadvantaging users they need to be able to put themselves in the positions of people for whom access means many things. This is why what EaRN aims to do at events such as this is so valuable: helping people to share what equality means to them is the first step towards making changes to embrace that diversity.
Cathy Smith Equalities Ambassador
On Saturday 19 November, members of the Equalities and Rights Network (EaRN) converged in the Ocean Terminal for an accessibility drop-in event. The purpose of the event, to raise both the profile of EaRN as well as awareness of accessibility issues with the public in general.
We began by setting up in a community space set up in the Ocean Terminal and to brainstorm some questions that we thought people might have about accessibility issues. The big question, is accessibility all about bumps, steps and doorways or are there wider questions to be asked relating to people’s attitudes?
Equalities Ambassadors went out among the shoppers to engage in the arduous task of garnering the public’s attention while discussions on accessibility were had in the community space. Members of the public began to ‘drop in’ to have their say and discussions were recorded both on paper and video to help inform participants about next steps. Success!
Luke Padfield Equalities Ambassador
On a cold November Saturday morning, we gathered at Ocean Terminal to meet with the general public to discuss issues around accessibility in Edinburgh. We wanted the theme of accessibility to have a broad scope and focused on three main questions:
1) Access to buildings and public spaces.
2) Access to activities, groups, events and services.
3) The response people received when raising concerns around accessibility.
A wide range of individuals and organisations attended and we received feedback from a number of different people. Personally, I spent much of the afternoon discussing accessibility issues with a man in a wheelchair and his mother. It quickly became clear that Edinburgh still has far to go to overcome the challenges around accessibility. Some of the concerns raised during the event were a lack of lowered pavements for wheelchair use, public buildings and shops which may be accessible but have poor layouts which hinders free movement and disabled toilets which are badly designed and which make them awkward to access.
One of the main issues raised was the lack of awareness of accessibility issues amongst the general public. It was felt that sometimes, whilst members of the public may not have intended to be unhelpful, a general lack of awareness means that this was often the case. An example of this may be when people park their cars in front of dropped curbs/crossings. Overall, the day was really useful as it enable us to hear the opinions of and engage with the members of general public. We are hoping to plan more events in the future so please keep an eye on the website and newsletter for updates.
Matt Cresser Equalities Ambassador
If you haven’t done so already, take a look at this Disability Awareness Quiz here created by our Equalities Ambassador Nada Shawa that we were handing out to members of the public on the day of the drop-in. When you are ready you can find the answers here!