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Our World. Without Boundaries Podcast: Ep3 In The ‘Inclusive Designer Series’ With Sarah Wills

In this episode we hear from Sarah Wills who talks about her experiences with a broken foot and how it has made her more understanding of how mobility issues and disability impact on people around her. It clearly shows how designing for excluded communities like disabled users can benefit us all.

Perito:      Welcome to the Perito Podcast Our World Without Boundaries. A Podcast all about creating inclusive environments, to create an accessible world for everyone, everywhere.  Perito believes that we’re all designers in some capacity even if we aren’t the Principal Designers like Town Planners or Architects.  This podcast is out there to help everybody become a community expert in recognising exclusion and someone who can then contribute to a design process and make or advise on creating better inclusive design decisions.  The podcast will help listeners learn from the day to day experiences and the challenges of our interviewees so we will all have a greater understanding of what can exclude people from participating and what can be done to create our world, without boundaries.

In this episode we are pleased to be joined by Sarah Wills who will be talking about her experiences moving around two of the nicest and touristy cities in the UK, Edinburgh and London, (0.52) but Sarah there’s a bit of a twist isn’t there, there’s a leg injury involved here?

SW:           Hi James and thanks very much for inviting me to contribute to this podcast.  There’s not really much to say about myself just an ordinary person with an ordinary lifestyle but I was used to being able to go anywhere without thinking about how I would get there or how I would get around when I was there.

Perito:      (1.12)  Can you tell us about the injury and how it’s impacted on your life before your trip that we’re going to focus on today?

SW:           I injured my foot and as a consequence I find myself experiencing what it was like to be disabled both where I was on holiday in Edinburgh and also during my day to day life in London.  The injury wasn’t serious it was a broken foot but it certainly made things very different for me, so I broke a fifth metatarsal which, as I was frequently told was what David Beckham had done.

Perito:      (1.38) Principally in good company then?

SW:           Well yes supposedly but I’m sure he had better treatment then I did, but never mind.

Perito:      (laughter)

SW:           It wasn’t that important but as a consequence of that break I had to wear one of those moon boot things, I don’t know if he did, but also use a crutch, where I found that wearing a moon boot and using a crutch at the same time took quite a bit of coordination and as moon boots are designed to prevent your foot from moving they are obviously completely rigid.

Perito:      (2.02) That’s really useful to set the scene.  Perito believes that we’re all designers as I mentioned at the beginning, what would be good to go into is really knuckle down into your day to day experiences so maybe we could speak about Edinburgh first or London first. The listeners will really want to understand the challenges that you had to go through, to get a better understanding of how to design for your situation.  I think the most important thing is to focus on the idea that this was a temporary situation for you as well.  Do you want to start with Edinburgh or London?

SW:           No Edinburgh’s good because I went there very shortly after the accident.  I went there for a holiday and I was there for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Perito:      Oh that was nice.

SW:           Very nice, well could have been nicer (laughter).

Perito:      (2.40) But you go there every year don’t you?

SW:           Yes, I do. So I’m very familiar with what it’s like to get around, how easy it is normally to get around and how difficult it was on this occasion.  Edinburgh is a very touristy city and it’s also very busy because of the festival. A very popular time to go there and I found that the pavements were very crowded with people, not surprisingly, but having enough space to walk was an issue.  People were oblivious to my difficulty, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised but I was.  They got very close on the pavements and it was really quite unnerving to think that they might trip my boot, or my crutch and I might end up on the pavement and become extremely vulnerable. Not something that I was used to even thinking about so that was an issue, probably what was even more problematic, although this was nobody’s fault why Edinburgh’s so touristy was that the streets are mainly cobbled.

Perito:      They are, yes.

SW:           And a very attractive feature normally of Edinburgh but not really one that was really attractive this time but not much can be done about that. I did find that there were often no alternatives, no alternative routes, you couldn’t really avoid the cobbles and that kind of made me think about how people should consider what if you can’t manage something. You can’t manage the staircase or you can’t manage a deep kerb that there should be alternatives provided for people, obviously my injury was temporary but for people who are permanently disabled it’s really, it leaves you with no options, the only options really are to try and get someone to help you. But that’s not always possible and it’s sometimes rather demeaning.  So walking was hard, buses were difficult, it’s hard to get on a bus when you’ve got a crutch and a moon boot and you don’t really get enough time, if you can find a seat you don’t really have enough time to sit down or if it’s standing room only then you definitely have to find somebody to hang on to.  The buses always seem to move off faster than I could do anything.

Perito:      Yeah (laughter) I can relate to that.

SW:           As a consequence of the pavements and the buses I decided that the only sensible thing to do really was to use Uber unless I was gonna stay at home all day and see nothing and that was interesting too because you’re paying for a taxi, though you know you’re the client, but some of the drivers clearly were not at all happy about having a disabled person in their car. I mean I was relatively able, I could get in the car relatively easily but maybe they were worried about the car getting bashed with my crutch or something like that, some of them are fine, some of them were a bit sort of unhappy and it was interesting that my rating, my Uber rating as a passenger, actually went down, which is a bit galling I had a very good rating up until that time.

Perito:      (5.03) (laughter) So Uber actually downgraded, potentially downgraded, you essentially because of that reason.

SW:           Yeah, yeah.

Perito:      That’s just unbelievable. Okay.

SW:           Well I mean you don’t get a chance, well you get a chance to tip them afterwards so I don’t think it was because of that, it was, you know, because, I suppose because it sometimes took more time to get in the car than they would have liked, that might have been an issue as well but from my point of view the biggest issue really was that it was extraordinary expensive so it was.

Perito:      (5.29) And I guess that the roads are jammed as well aren’t they so it must have been very difficult to be able to drive to all the different locations that you were trying to head to?

SW:           Yes quite stressful, you’re quite right.  The only upside to all of this really was that the venues where I went were really good. Obviously, it’s very tourist focussed and therefore tourist friendly festival, largely cheery students who are having fun, but I always found at the venues that they were very happy for me to go to the front of the queue which meant I always got into the venue first which meant I always got a front row seat, so it wasn’t all bad. I was able to take a bunch of my friends along with me so I was very popular, and I had people asking whether they could borrow the moon boot next year (laughter).

Perito:      (laughter)

SW:           So they too share the experience of being first in the line.  So that was Edinburgh, that was a mixed holiday really. I did enjoy it but I probably didn’t do as much as I would have done just simply because it was really tiring trying to find alternatives and having to think is it going to be difficult to get there, will there be too many people, will I just be stressed out by it but I wouldn’t say it was a complete disaster.

Perito:      (6.29)  What was the most difficult to manage was it the moon boot on the cobbles in the, say shock impact or was it the way the crutch would not sit on the level ground, or was it something else?

SW:           You know I think, yeah, it’s difficult to say really I mean the moon boot on the cobbles was a complete nightmare because the cobbles were obviously lumpy and the moon boots completely rigid at the bottom.  I don’t think it was either of those two things physically I think it was just, just the difficulty really, like I said earlier that coordinating the moon boot and the crutch is actually quite an art or maybe even a skill but whichever it was I didn’t really develop it terribly well, cos you have to think about what you’re doing which means you can’t think about what’s going on around you as much as you need to and that was consistent throughout the whole of the time that I was temporarily disabled. You’re very much focussed on your disability and you realise that other people are completely oblivious to it.

Perito:      (7.17) That’s an interesting note, lack of awareness isn’t it seems to have impacted on you and obviously everybody else who’s suffering the same within Edinburgh.

SW:           Yes. Moving onto London where I spend most of my time. London was a bit different, the bus issues were the same but also added to that were the issues to do with stations and they were a bit of a nightmare because again there’s a large pressure of people, but in some tube stations you get sloping ramps, when you’re, you know, you can walk normal the sloping ramps seem fine but some of them are quite steep, quite surprising steep and whilst there are lifts at many tube stations the signage isn’t good so you’re left thinking there must be a lift here somewhere but I can’t see where it is and obviously…

Perito:      (8.03) Yeah but then you get more tired looking for the lift because you’re having to struggle to get there aren’t you?

SW:           Absolutely, so a huge amount of your time is taken up by trying to find ways to compensate the disability that you’re suffering. There are stations, not so much tube stations but other stations which are actually only accessible by stairs and I was really surprised to find that because you don’t take any notice normally but that was very excluding when you thought I can’t go to that station because I can’t up or down the stairs and also at stations which normally would have lifts wasn’t uncommon to find that the lifts weren’t working so you find yourself getting off at a station which you knew had a lift to discover that you would have to try and find some way to get up the stairs anyway, not so good.  And very excluding. It makes you feel very unwanted really, I think, that’s probably how I’d put it.  So the pavement issues that were again the same as in Edinburgh and again there’s no awareness of other people of what, of how hard you’re finding it to get around and although, because obviously there are regulations, there are disabled entrances to buildings but it’s actually often quite difficult to find them and that makes you feel even more isolated and I guess that’s one of the things that came out of this altogether was that it was a very isolating experience. It made me feel very alone and very lonely and rather, sort of, an inconvenience to other people.  Fortunately it was only temporary but it has made me think a lot about how I behave around disabled people which isn’t sensitive enough I realise I don’t give them enough room to move in front of me or take account of the fact that they’ll be moving more slowly then I will be, so it’s been quite a learning experience for me too.

Perito:      (9.44) So how long did you have your leg in the boot for?

SW:           Oh, only six weeks, as well as everybody telling me that it was the David Beckham injury they all seemed to know, but I didn’t, that it would take six weeks so not really that long but long enough from my point of view to be very, very pleased on all sorts of levels to be able to get back to a more normal lifestyle.

Perito:      (10.05)  I think you’ve shed a little bit of light on the impact it’s had on you but how was this temporary experience with mobility issues and lack of access in Edinburgh and London impacted on you since the boot’s come off.  I guess it’s demonstrated quite clearly that inclusion and access benefits everybody regardless who they are. Has it changed or perhaps enhanced your understanding of people with more long term and permanent impairments?

SW:           Disability is seen as something that is to be ignored. it’s something that exists in this world and I think if there was more signage and better access to those things that help disabled people then people who don’t suffer from any disability of any sort, it would maybe make them more aware the fact that other people do and maybe they would then be more understanding and more accommodating of those who are, and I’m thinking of, you know, giving people who are disabled a bit more room to move around, not making them feel that they’re unusual or abnormal but just being a little bit more sensible in the way that they approach people.

Perito:      (11.04)  So it’s an interesting point you make with the signage so it wouldn’t just be signage to help with directions but it would also be alerting people to be like a visual remainder that there are lots of different diverse population using this facility or the train station or the roadway, don’t just assume that it’s okay for you to go about your business without taking into consideration and due courtesy.

SW:           Yes I think that’s a good way of putting it, I mean it’s not to identify disabled people particularly as a special group but just make it obvious that they are a group within the whole population. You know, just like there are able bodied people and young people and children and pregnant ladies, you know, disabled people around. I think disabled in itself is rather a negative word, but it would just become more normalised.

Perito:      (11.55)  Thanks for joining us today Sarah so I found the conversation enlightening and so important because you shed such articulate and well informed light on a subject of inclusion at access by demonstrating that it’s not just people with permanent disabilities that are impacted on. So thanks for sharing your six weeks of experience and I think what struck me about it is that it’s obviously it had quite a deep impact on you just from being in the boot for six weeks and to see how the world isn’t really ready for people to go about with a crutch and a boot on.  Thanks again for coming along.

SW:           Thank you.

Perito:      You’ve been tuning into the Perito Podcast Our World. Without Boundaries thanks for listening everyone, everywhere.

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Our World. Without Boundaries Podcast Ep2 In The ‘Inclusive Designer Series’ With Chris Nicholson of MH Stainton.

In this episode we feature an interesting interview with Chris Nicholson. A trainee Quantity Surveyor & wheelchair user who brings with him rare insight and analysis into the construction industry and accessibility for new build homes. As well as with the use of space within our built environment.

 

Perito:      Welcome to the Perito Podcast Our World Without Boundaries.  A podcast all about creating inclusive environments and about helping us all to become experts in identifying exclusion so together we can make better design decisions in our everyday life, work, play. Which in turn will help us create an inclusive and accessible world for everyone, everywhere.

Now in this episode we are pleased to be joined by Chris Nicholson.  Hiya Chris.

 

CN:           Hiya James how you doing?

Perito:      Very good thank you very much, how are you?

CN:           Yeah well thank you, thanks for having me on.

Perito:     (0.28) It’s a pleasure, I was going to do a quick fire round with you but I thought maybe that would be a bit harsh so we’re just going to kick off straight in with the interview questions.  Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

CN:           As you’ve already said James my names Chris Nicholson, a 26 year Apprentice Quantity Surveyor with a company called MH Stainton in Lancaster. I’m currently learning my trade at the University of Central Lancashire where on the course that I’m doing I will become a Chartered Surveyor by and for me, being a disabled person, after an accident playing rugby, it plays a part in my healing and trying to create a future that’s accessible for everybody and it’s totally inclusive.

Perito:     (1.10)  I think that’s a really good aim and it’s something to definitely strive for and very achievable but you mentioned that you were a wheelchair user since you had an accident playing rugby, what has that transition been like and how did the accident impact on your career?

CN:           The change has been very dramatic myself personally because I feel before my accident I was very blinkered and very selfish towards people who had disabilities where I wasn’t opening my mind to what other people has to go through day in and day out, the transitions been very difficult from both a personal and professional perspective because I don’t understand professionally why everything cannot be made inclusive, why accessibility cannot be just the norm, why a building cannot be totally inclusive, so if you build something for one person specifically somebody with a disability then it potentially can be accessed by every person so it’s been a transition that’s been very difficult. It’s opened my eyes a lot and I feel like it’s a very strange thing that I actually feel better in my mindset, after my accident I feel a lot more open minded to people who have disabilities because of the learning process that I’ve had to go through.

Perito:      (2.16)  Was your accident instantaneous or was it something that happened, you needed surgery and therefore you had time to adjust your situation?

CN:           My accident just happened, I was on the rugby pitch for five minutes and I had an accident that I was tipped on my head and my right side of my face touched my shoulder and it was very instant and something that I’ll never forget.

Perito:      (2.40)  You mentioned briefly about how you were almost blinkered, to inclusive environments or other disabled users or people with hidden disabilities.

CN:           Yes.

Perito:      (2.50)  Can you talk a little about why that might have been. Was it just an indication issue or did you just feel, because  you must have been super fit, you must have been young, almost a little bit invincible.

CN:           Yeah I was young. I was 21 at the time of my accident and almost very selfish with my own views and how I thought I was invincible and that nothing would stop me but there’s a massive education flaw with regards to people with disabilities. It’s not really a word and description of what people have to go through day in day out who have a disability whether it be mental health, visual impairment, physical impairment or something their born with, the education system isn’t there at the moment to actually give people that knowledge that they need to help understand these situations a bit more which I think the accessible and inclusive world is so far away from being potential because the learning and education isn’t there yet.

Perito:     (3.44)  So I think that’s a good lead into the next question then, so you’re a trainee Quantity Surveyor and will be soon a full, fully trained Chartered QS. Tell us about your employer and why being a QS is an accessible career and has less barriers then other options you were considering when you were younger?

CN:           Being a QS is something I sort of fell into and my employer I previously, I’ve only been M H Stainton now for nine months but my previous employers could see the potential that I had as a QS due to my ability before my accident where I was very good with numbers and I had an eye for detail and now since working with MH Stainton my eye for detail and working to surpass Building Regulations and general environments making a living environment perfect. Not just the one type of person who’s on their feet but for everybody, and I think the company where I’m at, MH Stainton, they really champion the independent kind of living that everybody deserves no matter what kind of disability they have and it’s really refreshing to go into a company and actually see that somebody’s willing to actually take a risk on somebody with a disability even though the boundaries that they have to do the work are quite limiting.

Michael, whose the Managing Director and Gail, who’s the Company Secretary are very supportive, the site team are very supportive and I think in order to get people into sort of these professions that aren’t well know for being disabled friendly, because in the construction industry you just think yep it’s just for guys, and it’s just full of rough and tough people but it’s not. It’s an inclusive environment that I think the company that I’m working for, MH Stainton, really pushed the boundaries on making it an inclusive and socially acceptable environment to work and I’ve never come across a company that’s been like that before.

Perito:      (5.43)  I think it’s really interesting that they wanted to build that out from scratch, do you think that’s come from the top down, as in from the management team or do you think that’s from someone saying let’s look at the commercial benefits of doing this or look at the social benefits of well being and maybe we should adopt this?

CN:           I don’t necessary think it’s on that the social benefits or the commercial benefits and I’ve asked this question once or twice to Gail and Michael and I’ve said to them “you know, why did you, take the risk with me, I’m in a wheelchair I come with these host of challenges” he said “it’s not the wheelchair that we hired, we hired the person” and for me it was a relief because I thought well am I just another tick box. But I’m not, they’ve hired because they want me on their team and they think that I can succeed in their team and it’s just a really refreshing outlook and something that I think major blue chip corporations should actually take on board that a wheelchair person or a person with a disability isn’t just a tick box, it’s somebody that can actually succeed, and do a job exactly like someone else.

Perito:      (6.49) What opportunities do you think being a QS does give and will give and why do you like it?

CN:           I like it because it brings me back to my rugby days a little bit when I go on site. It’s difficult, I’ve got to make adaptions on site, I get a bit muddy and it’s a challenge. I really, really thrive on a challenge but what I think I can, once I’ve got my chartership, I can bring it to the table I really think that with myself and working I would love to push governing bodies to actually look at people who on paper shouldn’t be working in construction but to get people included to make a difference and make a difference in their regulations that will allow somebody to be better in their own environment because it’s already been catered for because people who have these disabilities have a first person advantage to anybody who tries to cater for somebody with disabilities, they have the experience, they have the knowledge and can make a difference and can make adaptions or suggestions that somebody who isn’t disabled can’t.

Perito:      (7.57) You’re becoming expert at identifying what the exclusions are by your own day to day experiences?

CN:           Yes.

Perito:      (8.04) So talk about kind of exclusions and social exclusion. What is the most difficult to overcome, do you think it’s attitude on all issues from people around you or the physical barriers that you come across and why do you think this?

CN:           I think it’s more people’s perception and the judgement that comes from people who don’t know me and don’t understand my ability to be Quantity Surveyor and the drive that I have to be a QS. I think they judge me way too quickly before they actually know me and understand me and I think it’s a massive flaw in today’s society ‘judging a book by its cover’ and the amount of times that I go onto a building site and people go “oh, you’re in a wheelchair”, “how can you be in a wheelchair and on a building site and working construction”. That’s perception is totally flawed and wrong.

I think it just excludes people from actually wanting to be in the industry, because there’s this whole mentality that the construction industry is just for a set kind of person and not really for somebody that’s like me or somebody with a different kind of disability. It’s totally flawed in my opinion.

Perito:      (9.11)  It’s classic ability bias isn’t it. The idea of designing something for people with two hands or assuming that everybody has two hands and then you going on site, you’re in a position but their automatically looking at it through their own eyes and their own perception, instead of looking at what they can do to make the difference.

CN:           Yeah, exactly and people see a problem before they see me as a person which is wrong. I think it is wrong for people who have different types of disabilities because people view their disabilities before they actually view that person and view what that person can bring to the table and in some cases somebody might be able to bring something more than a fully abled bodied person and they judge a person by their image and not by what quality they have.

Perito:      (9.51)  Yep agreed, I think it’s very consistent even with Board level in corporations with the idea of diversity in gender.

CN:           Oh 100% yeah.

Perito:      (10.02)  When people talk about oh we need more women in Board rooms, actually that’s just the tip of the iceberg because the more people you have coming from more different backgrounds the more things you can understand because people aren’t looking at things in exactly the same way as everybody else.

CN:           Massively.

Perito:      And that’s really useful.

CN:           That’s a very big gripe of mine is when you see Members of Parliament who are head of the EWP and head of, you know, people with disabilities. The thing for me is what do those people know about somebody with a disability and after doing quite a bit of research into it Canada actually are trying to champion this process of getting people who are aware of these situations to make people with disabilities be more a viable option in the workplace and for people totally feel like they are wanted and I think it starts from the top of Government and major Blue Chip Corporations and it’s got to work it’s way down, it just takes the one company to make a difference.

Perito:     (11.08)  Agreed, so moving away from companies then onto the policy that you mentioned about Government and the role that they had to play, a lot of listeners will feel that Part M Building Regs doesn’t go far enough to support concepts like visit-ability and choose-ability.  What are your thoughts on the approved Doc M as guidance to meet the Part M obligations and does it go far enough?

CN:           I don’t even think it scratches the surface if I’m honest. I don’t like to go on about this point but it’s made by somebody who doesn’t understand what the problems are that somebody with a disability faces every day. I think it’s a totally flawed document that needs to be completely overhauled, re-written, so it makes people’s lives easier not in some respects harder. I’d push for that to be amended.

Perito:     (11.57)  Do you think that BS8300:2018 has a role to fit into the construction of new dwellings and buildings cos in place of the Approved Doc M (ADM) and does someone like MH Stainton use BS8300 as a standard?

CN:           MH Stainton are already working to a really high standard where we like to think that we don’t just think of the norm. We think of surpassing what the benchmark standards are.

Perito:      Yep.

CN:           And you know we champion ourselves on pushing the boundaries of any type of construction that we set our sights on that we make it totally accessible for everybody. We make any amendments possible that can make someone’s life easier, within reason, and there’s got to be a commercial aspect that we’ve got to think of but we like to really push the boundaries on making sure somebody’s home is built for a lifetime no matter the situation and it can be amended to their situation not just, this is your house, live in it and be done.  We like to think that we, and we do, care for our customers and we care for how they want to live their lives and how they want to live in our houses. Many housing companies and developers just see housing construction as just an accountancy, just numbers, it’s not somebody’s life, it’s what’s at the back end for it and how they can make as much money out of it as possible with as little going into it and not caring about that end user.  MH Stainton are a company that go that extra mile for its customers and really surpass the current benchmark that is outlined by Government.

Perito:     (13.36) When you think about the future of a barrier free built environment what do you think are the most important policy regs, standards, changes that would need to happen to get us there. You mentioned ageing in place, and I think ageing in place would be really vital going forward when you think about the cost of care for the elderly.  You don’t just simply want one house; you’re building a house for 100 years. So the number of people who are gonna live in there will be 3 or 4, 5, 10 families and someone may want to be there from the day zero to the day 100 and by being able to facilitate that adaption is essential. What do you think about the future of the barrier free environment?

CN:           I think we need to take a page out of Europe’s book. I’ve been to Italy, I’ve been to France and they have this generational living where grandparents live with their sons and daughters and then the sons and daughters of theirs then live with them and I think it, making sure that elements of buildings can be adapted with minimal uplift and upheaval that can affect somebody’s life.

Like making sure that doors are wide enough, like making sure there’s a correct turning circle that if somebody has sensory issues that a building can be adjusted, with minimal impact on that person’s life, to actually be altered in the way that suits them and I think current Building Regs and current standards don’t consider everybody. They consider something that somebody can see and not what can’t be seen and somebody with a visual impairment, you know, it’s all well and good adjusting the height of sockets and light switches but let’s think about people who have these mental disabilities, that have partial sight and that there’s more to it and that I think there has to be a total overhaul in the construction industry both on the housing sector and the commercial sector to completely make a building inclusive. Like I’ve said before, if we make building for one person who has got a severe disability it makes that building accessible for everybody, where we cater to the masses not just that single person.

Perito:      (15.38)  Yes so you could move somebody with a pram and a young family into it exactly the same way couldn’t you.

CN:           100%

Perito:      Because they need step free access with prams.

CN:           Yes but it goes past step free access. I recently moved into a, I won’t share the name but a very well-known developer, I moved into one of their houses and I go in, there’s…

Perito:      (16.01)  Was it a new build Chris?

CN:           …yes it was it was a new build and there’s steps in and out of the house to the front and to the rear, there’s elements of the property that I can’t reach such as the fuseboard, you know, so what happens if my stairlift goes down and I’m stuck downstairs I can’t actually flip the switch and turn it back on.

It‘s completely wrong and for somebody then to tell me that I have to pay them an obscene amount of money for classing it as a variation charge to make my life easier when these thoughts should actually be implemented and thought of sooner. It’s completely wrong and it needs to change, the whole system needs to be overhauled and people’s lives need to be thought of not just how to sell a house really quickly and make as much profit on it as you can.

Perito:      (16.54)  There’s a new flat development that’s gone up around the corner from me and I happen to run into the construction manager on a presentation thing and I explained to him, “well if you want help looking through the plans just to make sure that’s it all good and it’s going to be accessible for you just let me know, I’m quite happy, you know what I’ll do it for you for free”.   He kind of chuckled and said “no, no, no, no it’s fine” and well they’ve now finished them and there’s a nice set of steps, which I’m not even sure actually are going to pass Building Control having had a basic look at them, in terms of nosings and size but you’re thinking you’ve just built four steps running from this new build that you’ve just put in onto the street. How many people are going to go up those? It’s just bewildering as you say, from a developer point of view why that has been decided to happen and it could have easily been, and I’m not saying a ramp would have had to go in there but looking at step free access or level access would have been easy enough just with a slight tweak. Alas not, so now the 75 years or however long those flats last, we’re going to have those steps on the outside, an easily avoidable barrier and a permanent reminder of that Construction Manager’s ignorance and lack of care.

CN:           Yeah.

Perito:     (17.57)  Well as you know Chris, Perito believes that we’re all designers in some capacity even if we aren’t the principal designers like planners or architects and this Podcast is out there to help everyone become a community of exclusion experts who can then contribute to a design process and make better inclusive design decisions.  Can you tell us about your day to day experiences, I know you’ve touched on your house, so that’s probably a good place to start and challenges so that people will have a greater understanding of what can exclude you from participating and what can be done to create a world without boundaries for you?

CN:           Well initially it’s very difficult to create a world without total boundaries but for somebody like myself it can things as simple as level access into a property, it can be creating the correct turning circles because some may be as big as 1.2m2 but that’s for an electric chair but with me I’m in a manual wheelchair where 900mm2 is my turning circle. Level access to bathrooms is important because initially when I first moved into my property which was a new build, now a couple of years old, the issues that I had and that I found straightaway was the general access to the property was poor and that was despite Building Regs actually supposed to direct house builders to put in access that was suitable for people with disabilities. Now for me having steps at the front of my house doesn’t help me at all, it actually, it hinders me and it got to the point where I was requesting for the builder to come and take it out but the cost for variations spiral which isn’t fair when these builders should be creating houses that are suitable.

Perito:      (19.34) Yeah it doesn’t sound like they’ve gone with Part M there does it at all?

CN:           …No.

Perito:      (19.37)  And to charge you for that seems a bit dodge.

CN:           It’s not correct and they need to be held responsible for this where and I don’t understand how Building Control can let that off because having freedom to use my house as I please is a massive thing, it’s my independence, it’s my life.

I’m expecting a child soon and not to be able to take my child out would have been catastrophic for me. I’d have felt more isolated and excluded from actually using my property with being able to get in and out because I have to rely on other people.  My current employer, and before I started with them, gave me plans, I reviewed the plans and the first thing that I went back to them with was “why are your bathrooms so big?” and “why are you making them so big like you can clearly fit anybody in there that requires the space to get in there even to a larger chair”. They were like “well a home should be able to be lived in by everybody not excluding the demographic that has difficulties with living in properties, nobody should be excluded from a house or wanting to live a life that gives them, you know, a lot less boundaries”.

For me that’s a refreshing outlook because many of these major developers just think about that profit. They don’t think about who’s living in their houses, who is gonna give feedback to somebody else who’s got a disability and try and sell them a house, it’s just all profit, it’s not about their reputation of being a builder for everybody, it’s about being a builder that can make a good amount of money and can make the most revenue and turnover.

Perito:      (21.16) You’re kind of in a unique position being a Quantity Surveyor because part of your job is to cost the build isn’t it?

CN:           Yes.

Perito:      (21.23)  You work out how much has got to be removed, how much has got to be put in.

CN:           Yes.

Perito:      (21.26)  Are you sitting there with MH Stainton saying, you know what Michael this is gonna cost you an extra so and so percent or are you sitting there and going actually this doesn’t really cost anymore than doing it in the right way. Doing it first time, not only saves costs further down the line for people like yourself but also makes the building better for ageing in place.

CN:           Yes.

Perito:      (21.47) Is there a definite line there or is it just a fallacy that these bigger developers, or any developers frankly, like the one down the road from me, are using as an excuse?

CN:           In my personal opinion, and after reviewing costs of looking at for example different shower trays, different types of bathrooms, types of spaces and having level access, you know, it’s here nor there the cost difference in fact in some cases it’s actually less putting in say a fully ramp up to the house that looks amazing, that doesn’t look like it’s specified for somebody that’s disabled with a nice big concrete ramp and steel handles on it…

Perito:      Yeah, exactly.

CN:           …and steel rails, it doesn’t have to look like that. That’s just the Government being ‘right well what’s the most cost-effective way’ but as a Quantity Surveyor looking at the percentages of cost against somebody for having a disability and somebody without a disability. We can’t cater to everybody, it’s not going to be fully boundless, there’s always going to be one or two boundaries that maybe can’t be considered for somebody with more severe disabilities but the cost that these developers are saying they will have to incur is so extreme that it would actually put them out of business is wrong and I don’t know how they can stand by that statement and suggest that when the data that I review daily with my Managing Director and the PQS who overlooks the work that I do and take data suggesting there doesn’t really cost that much more, if not a little bit less.  These builders get away with murder and in my opinion it’s not correct.

Perito:      (23.29) What did you do to overcome those barriers with your particular home, You’ve been there a couple of years now, do you have level access now?

CN:           I’ve had to bear the cost myself and with the support that I’ve received from charities, but I’ve taken out the step. I’ve made sure that my turning circles are enough, made sure that I can get in and out of my shower correctly, obviously I still have the limitations of getting out to my back garden and the width of the paths that they put round the side of your house with those fetching concrete slabs that they put down, you know, there’s obviously  still limitations that I have in my property. I don’t expect to be there forever but for me as the customer having to amend my property because it doesn’t meet the current regulations and current standards and it has to come out of my pocket when I’m already paying a small fortune for a house, it’s wrong, and again its criminal, in some respects, what developers can get away with.

Perito:      (24.25)  Well I guess Building Control have a part to play in this as well don’t they?

CN:           Yes 100% yes.

Perito:      (24.29) In terms of, they really should have been coming up and placing a bit of emphasis here that hasn’t met visit-ability. It certainly doesn’t sound like it’s met Part M 4 at all which is bizarre but how do you find moving away from your house then, how do you find just your day to day experiences on the street, like the way people look after pavements that you use or ways to the office, is the disabled parking at work is that usually being abused by, cos I know that’s a regular problem for many people?

CN:           I have a big problem when I go out. Especially when I go to supermarkets, I get told that I’m not disabled enough to park in Blue Badge bays even though I’m getting my wheelchair out and trying to access just local amenities like everybody else and when other people who are sat in their cars, in a disabled bay with no Blue Badge up it’s very frustrating. At work there’s access for me to access the building, there’s access for me to park safely enough that I can get my chair out safely and not affect anybody else or, you know, other people who work close by us, you know.  So work generally is fantastic I think if we go outside of work and my home life the paths, pavements, dropped kerbs, they’re a massive issue. I think Councils should be made to rectify all these issues because it’s not just potentially an issue for me, it’s potentially an issue for somebody who’s on their feet and then trips up over un-level ground which then is an insurance claim against the Council, so the money that they could have spent to rectify a path, they’re now being sued for.

Perito:      Yep, they’ve lost.

CN:           That doesn’t benefit anybody that just unfortunately benefits the person who’s unfortunately damaged their ankle due to the Council’s negligence and I think that’s all the way around the country, there’s issues for access, there’s issues for just general amenities and access in those amenities to which is disabled people aren’t thought of and people with certain limitations aren’t thought of.  Now everybody can’t be catered for but there should be things in place to try and cater for everybody to be able to go out and access their day to day lives and explore the world because you miss out on so much because people don’t think.

Perito:      (26.46)  It’s a really relevant point there I think the opportunities that you’re denied, essentially you should be able to have equal opportunity to go out and do these things, there’s very little change that needs to happen but people just don’t tend to think.

CN:           No.

Perito:      (26.58)  Do you ever sit there sometimes and think I can relate to their ignorance and their lack of courtesy because when I was younger I kind of felt the same and I didn’t care. Or would you even at 21/20 never done these things like park in a disabled bay?

CN:           I’d have never have done them. Sometimes if there’s a large car park I’ll try not to park in a disabled bay because I know somebody that could be more disabled then me and I’ll try and find a space that allows me to get access to these amenities but, and save a space for somebody else, but there’s certain things that I was very short sighted with, I was very tunnel visioned on what I wanted to achieve in my life and, you know, I don’t regret that but I regret how I couldn’t see how other people could struggle from the simple things of me being able to access a shop, and how people are disadvantaged because someone can’t think about putting a level access in to allow somebody with a disability to access something, and it’s being disabled has been a massive learning curve for me. I’d challenge anybody to actually live a weak in the life of somebody that’s disabled and not say that they’re not moved by the struggles that, that person has to go through day in and day out because being disabled’s hard.

Perito:      (28.12)  Well it’s exhausting isn’t it and then extra costs associated with it that people don’t think about.

CN:           It is, yes, yes.

Perito:     (28.17)  Are there any final thoughts in terms of top 5 things if you could talk to a designer of the street or a house what top 5 things would you say, you can have top 20 if you like that should always be included for you as a wheelchair user and what would you like them to do that they should already be doing but obviously aren’t or at least if there are designers out there wondering what they should be doing, how you can help them to design better?

CN:           Yes I’ll give you my top 5 because it’s not actually that bigger thing that these designers need to do. They need to think of the space and how the space is used. Pinching from one room to another and making door frames smaller just to make one room slightly bigger, okay you know, people might like a bigger lounge but it limits somebody’s access to these rooms.  Let’s create rooms that people can access that can be accessed by everybody not just by the majority.  Now my next point sort of moves onto like bathrooms and how we pinch the sizes in our larger rooms, our bedrooms, our kitchens, why can’t we make downstairs bathrooms a little bit bigger, you know, or main bathrooms bigger and have that space so somebody can turn in those areas if they’re in a wheelchair or, you know, have disabilities that affects their mobility, let’s give people space, let’s give people, let’s already think ahead rather than thinking of what’s the best way to profit from this.

Perito:      (29.42)  Or the minimum that can lead to the maximum profit.

CN:           Yes exactly. Let’s look at trying to maximise the consumer’s ability to use their property whilst trying to maximise profits at the same time. It can go hand in hand, it then increases your customer satisfaction rating, then increases the general perception of the company and your homeowner wants to live there. And doesn’t have to rip their house apart down to the simplest thing here James of making sure that it’s got level access. What’s so hard about putting a ramp in?

There’s nothing hard about it, people have paving in their back gardens. They have steps in their back gardens that’s been provided by these developers so what’s wrong with putting a level access through this house or to any building in fact, there’s nothing wrong with that.  MH Stainton have just completed an apartment building, they’ve made sure that if they don’t know something they’ll go out of their way to find it out and make sure that buildings can be used by everybody and that it’s for everybody not just for a single market and I’d massively implore these designers on my fifth point to go out there and find the knowledge. If they’re unsure about something find somebody with a disability and say right well what could make your life easier? What’s the bane of your life in this moment in time that causes you to feel restricted in your own home and the honesty and the knowledge that you’ll get from that will be second to none and it will give you so much knowledge and clarity on what you need to do as a designer, or as a director to increase these buildings sort of access and diversity and inclusion and just listen and learn.  Knowledge is a very powerful tool that these designers could use just by going out and asking people who are disabled what can be done to make your life easier that we can include in our properties, it’s just something as simple as that.

Perito:      (31.40)  Some excellent points there Chris thank you, so any final thoughts from you before we start to think about closing the Podcast?

CN:           James I’m just really grateful for you allowing me to voice my opinion and put across my knowledge to others so they can then look at trying to improve their construction process but also to not only think about if you’re able bodied, think about somebody who’s disabled and, if somebody needs a hand, give them a hand. Don’t just sit there and watch. Encourage people who are disabled to get out there, see the world and if there’s limitations help them to overcome their limitations, if those boundaries are broken down you’re making a massive change to somebody’s life that’s really important.

Perito:      That’s a good summary. It’s been excellent to find out more about you and your future Quantity Surveying career, Chris thanks for joining us today and best of luck going forward.

CN:           Cheers James.

Perito:      Perhaps we could do a catch up in a year. We could do another Podcast to see how things have changed for you in that period and whether you’ve got more interesting stories to tell your listeners.

 

You’ve been tuning into the Perito Podcast Our World Without Boundaries. Thanks for listening everyone, everywhere.

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Changing Places.org – The Perito Prize Anthology 2019’s Chosen Charity – Find Out More Here!

The Perito team are pleased to announce that the proceeds from the 2019 Perito Prize Anthology will be donated to Changing Places. An organisation all about spreading the word on fully accessible toilets.

For more information on Changing Places please check out their website on http://changing-places.org/ and their twitter feed on https://twitter.com/CP_Consortium. You can also discover more information about the UK Toilet map here too. http://www.uktoiletmap.org/

You can support the charity by downloading and/or buying a paperback or Kindle of the Perito Prize Anthology from Amazon Bookstore. Please contact the Perito Team here if you would like to stock the paperback or get a copy of your own if you can’t access Amazon.

 

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The 2019 Anthology Is Now Available To Buy Or Download from Amazon Bookstore & Kindlestore!

The Anthology is now available to buy from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle from here. This year we will support the charity that campaigns for fully accessible toilets called Changing Places.

You can find out more about them here. They have a range of interesting resources including the Toilet Map –  http://www.uktoiletmap.org/ – and they can be found on twitter here if you would like to follow them.

We’ll keep you updated on how much we make but in the meantime if you want to read some great short stories and support an excellent organisation which campaigns for one of the ultimate fundamental rights, then head over to Amazon, buy a book or download the kindle book (get through every page so we can earn more money for the charity) and post a review which will, hopefully, support and recognise our amazing creative talent who have put their work out there for us to enjoy.

 

The Perito Team

 

 

 

 

 

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Our World. Without Boundaries Podcast: Episode 2

EPISODE 2: TACTILE & BLISTER SURFACES 

 Welcome to the Perito Podcast ‘Our World. Without Boundaries’, today we’re talking to Jill Allen-King about tactile and blister paving and the world of accessibility for blind and partially sighted people. 

 

Perito: Hi Jill thanks for joining us, so it would be good to start off with a brief introduction about yourself and maybe a brief discussion about the terminology that we mentioned earlier.

JAK: I was born with full sight but on my first birthday I have measles and had to have my left eye removed and I was partially sighted until the age of 24 when I went totally blind with Glaucoma, so I am totally blind, I’m not visually impaired or all these other terminologies that are used I am a totally blind person and so man people say sight loss and terminologies like that which doesn’t cover people that are born blind and have never had vision to lose, so we always say blind or partially sighted people.

 

Perito: (01m.08s) Thank you for that Jill so it will be interesting for our listeners to hear more about how you became involved in the development of tactile surfaces?

 

JAK: The Federation of the Blind in 1970 and also I’d started to work with the Department of Transport they’d formed a group of people with different kinds of disabilities, I was the only blind person on it and at that time they would dropping kerbs and at a lot of the pavements for people using wheelchairs and what we found was that blind people were crossing roads not realising that they’d crossed mostly side roads, this wasn’t too much on main roads at that time and one blind man up in Hull was nearly killed as he walked along his pavement not realising the kerb had been dropped and he was nearly killed and I use to visit a friend about half an hour’s walk from here where I live in Westcliffe and just before I got to her gate there was a run in to a garage, and I always describe it as like a slab of chocolate, like a tactile paving area, and it was completely flush to the road and as soon as my feet, because totally blind you rely on feeling and your guide dog is guiding you and stops at various things, kerbs and things, but I could tell by walking on this that I was going to be at my friend’s gate, and I’d say to Topsy, that was my first guide dog, find Peg’s gate and that was so easy for me to find.  So one day at the Department of Transport, Sir Peter Baldwin who was the then permanent Under Secretary Estate for Transport and his Assistant, Ann Fry, they got together a group of people and I can remember it really well, it was about 1976, and a group of people using wheelchairs sat on one side of me, about 8 people with varying kinds of wheelchairs, and on the right hand side was a group of blind people representing the RNIB, St. Dunstan’s Guide Dogs, there was about 8 of them as well.  So they both put their cases why they needed the kerbs dropped for their wheelchairs and the blind people were saying why they needed, as it was in those days a 4” kerb, so they knew when they were at the edge of the pavement.

So Sir Peter said we’ve got to come to a compromise haven’t we Jill, and I said yes, so I described this textured surface and it was flush to the kerb.  So as a result of all that the Road Research Laboratory came down here, a man called Neal Duncan and Ann Fry came and I walked them all around this area to explain to them that there were pedestrian crossings but I had no idea where they were, like along my seafront there were different kinds of Zebra crossings, there was a Zebra crossing and there was a Pelican crossing but I had no idea where they were because as I walk along a footpath there was nothing to indicate to me that there was a crossing.  You could occasionally hear the bleeper go but of course you don’t get bleepers on Zebra crossings.  So they came and I explained why we needed a texture, why we needed the texture to go across the pavement so that I would know when I was coming up to a crossing and so they went back to the Road Research Laboratory at Crowthorne in Berkshire and they brought out 12 different kinds of textures and again I can remember it really well, a lot of us about 20 of us went down to Crowthorne, people with all kinds of different disabilities, there were some in wheelchairs, there were some walking with sticks, there were deaf/blind people, there were blind people with diabetes whose lose the sensitivity in their feet, and we each one was taken around these 12 different textures separately so we couldn’t talk to each other to, you know, we just round and we were asked to vote on the one that we thought was the best surface, and it was a miracle that all of us picked the blister paving that you’ve now got at the pedestrian crossings, all of us, the wheelchair users, the people using sticks they thought that that was the best one.

Now for me it was more pronounced then I wanted it to be right.  The bobbles were a bit higher than I wanted them to be, I didn’t want them to be as high as that really but as I found out from my friends and colleagues that had diabetes, I’m not a diabetic, but those people that were, they lose a sensitivity in their fingers and in their feet and they could not feel the one that wasn’t as pronounced as the one we chose, so that’s why it had to be as pronounced as it was.  Now what happened then after we all agreed this should be the one, the compromise, remember it is a compromise between the needs of wheelchair users and blind people and so it was put around the country and about, I think it was about 24 different sites around the country, including outside the House of Commons because believe it or not it had to be tested by the Sergeant at Arms whose in charge of that crossing for the horses when the Queen goes for opening of Parliament and they use the horses, it had to be okay for the horses as well, which I thought was quite funny really but it got the okay.  And I wanted the first one to be outside the House of Common so when we were campaigning around the country for tactile paving to be introduced we could say to our Members of Parliament, that’s what we’re talking about and that’s why the first one was laid outside the House of Commons, well it was launched on July 18th 1983, but it had already been laid around the country for the trials and yes there were people complaining about it and there still are people that complain about it, people that wear these high heel shoes and things like that, and some people with really bad arthritis in their feet but it was a compromise and we had to consider the needs of not only people in wheelchairs but people pushing wheelchairs, people pushing prams and buggies and that needed the ramped edge, and for those of us that are blind so we knew when we were up to a crossing so that’s how it all began.

 

Perito: (8m.40s) That’s very interesting thank you very much.

 

Perito: (8m.45s) So moving onto Question 2 then I would be interested to know more just for a minute or so about before the introduction of tactile services what was everyday life like for someone blind or partially sighted?

 

JAK: Well it was difficult because you didn’t know when you were up to a crossing although those crossings were there you didn’t know that they were there, only by trial and error really and when you’re trained with a guide dog, and I was trained in 1971 so I had about 10 years without the tactile and it was just very difficult to know where you were up to and especially finding steps and I use to travel up to London frequently to go to meetings and at stations there was steps, because there weren’t always lifts at the stations in those days, well still no lift at my station, they were going to have one, and so we introduced the Corduroy kind and at that time, I’m talking about back in the late 70’s/80’s I chaired the Joint Committee on Mobility for the Blind and Partially Sighted, we met at the Royal National Institute for the Blind in Great Broughton Street and we coordinated all the national organisations of and for blind people and partially sighted people and deaf/blind people, so that we knew what the problems were and it was our idea to have the Corduroy kind placed at tops and bottoms of steps so that we would know when we were coming up to a light of steps whether you were going up or down and that was very useful and very helpful but prior to that time you just had to depend on your guide dog to find the steps or a person using a long cane, and it wasn’t until 1964 that the long cane as brought over from America to teach blind people mobility, so right up to that time you would have seen blind people walking around the streets just using an ordinary white walking stick.  So as I say it wasn’t until 1964 that the long cane training came over from America and although I was offered the long cane training at that time I’d only just been blind a couple of years and I was asked if I would go to Birmingham on a 3 month course to be taught that, well I’d got a baby and I didn’t want to obviously leave her, I couldn’t leave her for 3 months to go for training, so may very first campaign was to have a mobility officer based at Southend Council who trained me and in those days there was about 600 blind and partially sighted people living in the Southend district and there as only I think two guide dog owners at that time living in the town, and so life was very difficult getting around and so with this training, and this long cane training, which I had, and it was a good but it didn’t give enough confidence to go out and it wasn’t on my own until I had my first guide dog that made me independent once again.  But even with a guide dog you still weren’t sure that you were up to the steps or you were up to a crossing, it was very difficult.

 

Perito: (12m42s) Thank you for that Jill. Can you tell us about how you deal with people who arrive at the front door?

 

JAK:  Well that was one of the problems when I first went totally blind because my husband would go off to work, I was left at home on my own and I just did not want to open my front door because I didn’t know who was going to be there and so I, I started to work with the National Federation of the Blind and we had discussions at meetings about problems and one of the problems was this issue for a lot of people worried about the door.  So I thought of this idea for having a password and we contacted the electricity company to start off with and this was up in the Midlands, because that’s where we were having our meetings at the time, and so they said yes they would do it, and from, this is 1974, and from then on the public utilities, the Gas and the Electric companies use a password scheme.  So what happens is you arrange with the company your password and I’m not going to tell you what my mine is (laughter) because I don’t want everybody to know, but you choose a word that you know is quite a familiar word to you, and you won’t forget it anyway and then when the person knocks at the door, rings the bell you go to the door with your chain on and you say, “who are you” and they say “oh it’s the Gas Board” and then I say “what is my password” and I will not let anybody in my door unless I’m 100% certain who it is and so that has been going on throughout the country, the password scheme and for the past, I suppose 10 years, I’ve been working with the Department of Work and Pensions on the benefits, with talking about Disability Living Allowance and now the new Personal Independence Payment.  Really about the benefits but I brought up at every meeting that we should have a password, because I know from contacts that I make with blind people around the country, that one lady who lived down in Somerset she got conned at the door by somebody saying that they were from DWP and they weren’t and she gave all her personal information to them and so we know people are very vulnerable in this day and age, whether your blind, partially sighted or just an older person and so I’m trying, well they’ve agreed to do it and they did have a trial in Wales about 3 years ago and they said yes it works but the problem with the Department of Work and Pensions is that they will keep changing their staff and so you get one lot of Civil Servants agreeing to do something and a Minister, and of course in the last 5 years we’ve had I think 4 different Ministers for the disabled, and I mean their all very good and they come and chair our meetings, we’ve got a special target, a little group called Alternative Format looking at the different formats for the benefits, large print, braille, audio because not everybody can cope with things online and so this is one of my current campaigns is to make sure that everything is available in all formats not only online, and we lose out so much of information that is being given to you not only by the Government, by Councils as well and that is a daily occurrence now that you receive an email which says “oh it’s all online” and consultation papers, surveys, lots of things that you just can’t cope with and you can’t respond to.

 

Perito: (17m.10s) Of these 7 official types of tactile paving, that’s blister, Corduroy, platform edge that’s off street, platform edge, on street, segregated shared cycle, guidance path surface information surface, which, in your opinion is the most and least effective and why?

 

JAK:  The least effective is the one that was devised to go through pedestrian areas and that was first laid in, I think it’s Gouda, in the Netherlands and in fact in the end they had to take it up because they found that blind people using like long canes were trying to negotiate along this tactile through the pedestrian area and they were tripping people up with their long canes, so they eventually took it up, they didn’t find it very helpful at all so for my own, and there is a consultation going on at the moment looking at tactile paving, and my own opinion, and this is my own opinion it is that we should keep the blister for the pedestrian crossings, all pedestrian crossings where they are controlled crossings.  They’ve laid it in many parts of the country where they’re uncontrolled and I only wanted it to be at controlled crossings so that you knew that it was as reasonably safe as it could be to cross that road at that point.  Now along the London Road here they’ve laid it at different places other than controlled crossings and I wouldn’t cross there, I think it’s too dangerous, you need to, it’s so dangerous nowadays, we can’t hear the electric cars coming and so you’ve just got to be extra careful to cross the roads and so that one’s fine.  The Corduroy one should only be at tops and bottoms of steps, now what they’ve done in Southend they’ve laid that one outside the Victoria Railway Station where they’ve got a shared space and I’ll come onto that in a minute, but that shouldn’t be there, that should only be, that Corduroy at tops and bottoms of steps.

Then we’ve got the blister which is slightly different, it’s called a lozenge pattern on the edges of railway platforms, again that was my idea. We were visiting stations because they were making stations unmanned, no staff at stations which is just ridiculous. Blind and disabled people just cannot physically use the station where you’ve got no staff, it’s too dangerous so while we’ve been campaigning to retain staff at railway stations we also, as a safeguard really, to have the tactile laid not right on the edge of the platform edge but just set back a bit so that you don’t go beyond that tactile and that is very helpful.  I mean I don’t travel very much completely on my own no, I always make sure I get assistance, and when I was younger I did and I just used the tactile paving.  I’m mean I’m not so confident now because I’m older and I’ve had a couple of falls getting on a train and getting off a train all because, and this is where when you help a bind person you should always ask them how they want to be helped, and for staff members they think that every blind person can see something, well a lot of us can’t see anything and so they’ll say “Oh step here, step there” they don’t tell you if it’s an up step or a down step and I was being helped off a train, the train had broken down, I was on the way to Eastbourne and we had to change trains and I was getting off this train at Hove, and I had my guide dog in my left hand, he got off first, I was holding the member of staff and he just said “step” but what he didn’t tell me that there was a wide gap so though I stepped off I went down the gap between the train and the platform and so you just have to be so careful when you’re given assistance that you’re given it the right way and always say let the blind person take your arm you should never push a blind person, you should never, you know, walk behind them and sort of say “this way, that way” you take their arm and then say left or right or if there’s a step say whether the step’s going up or down.  So many people that reckon they’ve been trained say “steps coming up” but they’re not they’re steps going down and so you really have to be really careful whey your guiding a blind person to make sure that you’re giving the right sort of information.  Coming back to the tactile yes they introduced a tactile for the dividing cycleways now we had a big debate in the House of Commons back in 1984 when the Cycle Tracks Act was re-designed and we were totally opposed to any kind of sharing the pavement with a cyclist, we support the need for cycle tracks and cycle paths but not sharing it with a pedestrian and unfortunately we lost, although there was a 5 hour debate this was at the time when guide dogs weren’t allowed into the House of Commons and another campaign that I’ve been fighting ever since I had my first guide dog and so I had to sit outside and I was not allowed to sit in the commons room with my guide dog and listen to that 5 hour debate, and when you’re a campaigner you need to listen to other people’s points of view and of course you couldn’t if, cos I wasn’t allowed in there with my dog, but we lost and I say, we, it had been the policy of the National Federation of the Blind, the Royal National Institute for the Blind, the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, that we did not want cyclists to share the same footway or footpath or pedestrian area as a pedestrian and we know there’s been many accidents of people being knocked down by a cyclist.  I’ve had people on my footpath, in my road, try and ride between me and my dog, and these are old people, these are not youngsters, these are older people that think that they’ve got the right to ride along the footway or the footpath, and we also were very annoyed when the removed the bell, the bell use to be a requirement on a bicycle and the Pedestrians Association it was in those days, had the bell removed, they didn’t want a bell on a bike and just like that it got removed as a requirement and now if you buy a bicycle you have to have a bell on it but there’s no requirement for you to use it, which again is ridiculous, that ought to be a requirement that a person uses a bell cos when you can’t, you can’t hear a cycle coming and people just whizz around you and bump into you.  And so when they introduced this tactile at the start of a cycleway it really wasn’t very helpful because you could join that cycleway anyway along it, not necessarily at the beginning of it or at the end of it so we found that quite difficult to use and I wouldn’t recommend that at all, we just keep to the ones that we’ve got.

And then going on to the shared space issue back in 2005 I was still chairing the European Blind Union, we coordinate all the different countries in Europe, whether their members of the Union or not and there’s about 43 different countries who are involved and I chaired this commission for 16 years which covered all road safety, mobility, transport and guide dog issues from 1996 so I’ve travelled all over Europe and we were trying to improve the environment all over Europe, not only in this country and in 2005 we found out that they’d designed this shared area in The Netherlands.  Now they’d been no consultation with any blind organisations at all, in fact I found out afterwards they hadn’t even considered the need to blind people but their strategy was to remove all pavements, all pedestrian crossings and make a wall to wall flat surface and the idea was, the concept of a shared space was, that a driver of vehicles made eye contact with the pedestrian so that they shared the same area.  Well we as you can imagine said this is absolutely ridiculous, very dangerous and we were very concerned that they hadn’t consulted blind people and by 2007 the idea came over to the UK and in fact I went to the very first meeting that they had in Kensington because they wanted to do this in Exhibition Road in London which they eventually did do, removing all the kerbs, all the crossings, all the proper pavements and although they consulted us as so often happens they ignored us, completely ignored us.  And while this was going on in the UK I was still chairing the commission in Europe and in 2008 I spoke to a Transport Conference in Paris of all the Ministers of Transport from the whole of Europe and I said you know about all the hazards that we have anyway on the pavements and the all difficulties blind people have getting around and I said about the shared space and they were amazed because they just hadn’t considered the needs of blind people and I went on my very first cruise in that year, I’d been in the September and this talk was in the October 2008 and my friend and I who was a fully sighted person, we went to Rome on, we got off the cruise ship and you know you go on a coach trip, we went into Rome and this is where they’d got a shared space and we were nearly killed, we really were nearly killed and we just, Lorraine I mean she’s fully sighted that was with me and she said “Jill I don’t know where we going” she said “they’ve got no footpaths here” I said “Oh no this must be one of these shared spaces” and it was.  And I said all this at this conference and afterwards all the different Ministers from different countries were saying “Ahh we hadn’t thought about it”.

Well there was a gentlemen who’d worked on this scheme in The Netherlands from the UK called Ben Hamilton-Bailey and what we decided to do was to have a meeting in London, it was initiated by the Guide Dogs for the Blind and I went for the National Federation of the Blind and we had had RNIB were there, and I arrived at the meeting early cos when you travel from a long distance you make special arrangements so that you get somewhere in good time.  So I was there early, nobody else in the room and this man came in and he said, “Oh good morning” and I said “Good morning who are you?” and it was Ben Hamilton-Bailey he said “Oh I’ve heard of you” and I said “Yes I’ve heard of you” and so for a quarter of an hour I told him how I’d introduced the tactile paving originally back in the 70’s and I said this is really similar to what you’re doing now, taking away, you know, the kerbs, the crossings and making a flat surface how do you expect us to know where we are.  Guide dogs are trained, children are trained, you stop at the kerbs and you look left and right and you know where to cross and all the rest of it, I said, “how do you expect people to do it in this area?” and he said “Oh we hadn’t thought of” they really hadn’t thought of blind people and I challenged him and I know Guide Dogs challenged him to come out with a blindfold on with us but he never did and so he still campaigned, he still acted as a consultant throughout the country encouraging Local Authorities to do this shared spaces which unfortunately they’ve been doing.  Fortunately because I’d spoken in Europe they’re not doing them so much in Europe, they did take a note of what we said, mind you their pavements are in an awful state, they’re worse than our pavements are here, so that was sort of the start of the shared space.  The problem with the shared space that’s been built in Southend we have two areas one outside the Victoria Railway Station so people travelling down that don’t know the area would just walk out the station and walk straight across this shared area, where buses go and taxis go, other traffic isn’t supposed to go there but there’s lots of buses and there have been many accidents there and then the other scheme is on the seafront at Southend at City Beach where they took away the conventional kerbs which meant that the water didn’t runaway properly and they’ve had lots of problems with the traders with the waters not running away and getting flooded and they installed after we made a lot of complaints, they did install what they call courtesy crossings.

Now these are not legal crossings, they called courtesy crossings which means that you can cross whenever you like, the drivers can go and stop whenever they like, there’s no legal requirement and unfortunately they’ve put the tactile paving there which should only be at controlled crossings, so I would not cross there because there’s nothing to let me know when the right time to cross whereas when you’ve got a bleeper crossing you press your button and you only cross when the bleeper goes to tell you, as these courtesy crossings are just so dangerous, and I know because I go along there in cars and the drivers don’t like it, all they’ve got is a 20 mile speed limit, there’s nothing else to say who is in charge of that area and nobody is, again it’s a shared space concept that you’re supposed to make, the driver’s supposed to make eye contact with the pedestrian which is not very good when you can’t see, when you’re blind or you’re partially sighted.  And it also affects people with mental and learning difficulties I am Patron of a local Mental Health Charity called Trust Links and I know from their members who have got mental health issues they like to know that they’re on a safe footpath and they like to know that there’s a proper safe crossing to cross at.  So it’s not only a problem for blind and partially sighted people the shared space, it’s a problem for many, many pedestrians.  Probably all pedestrians because you can’t be safe in a shared space area and nor can the traffic really but at least the traffic can go even though they have to go at a 20 mile speed limit, or suppose to go at 20 mile speed limit, whereas a pedestrian has got no safe area to walk and we are trained with our guide dogs not to go into those shared areas because there’s nowhere for the guide dog to feel safe either on the pavement or where to cross the road.

 

Perito: (35m.15s) Jill it’s been interesting to hear you talk today, thank you very much for your time and we look forward to the next episode.

 

JAK: Thank you very much James and I just hope that people will learn and understand what tactile really does mean and for the people that may want to complain about it, the sighted people I mean, just think how lucky that they that they can actually see where they’re walking, where they’re crossing the roads and for people that may have walking difficulties again I hope they will understand that we did have to have a compromise that would help as many different kinds of disabilities with mobility issues as we can, we can’t please everybody and also it would be really helpful if more people offered to help a blind or partially sighted person, not just grab their arms and pull them across the road but just say “would you like help” or if we’re standing at a bus stop say “would you like help to know what number the bus is coming” there’s lots of ways that sighted people can help a blind person and also I think it’s the one thing that I always start off with by people cutting back their overhanging branches cos its really difficult to walking along your own footway or footpath with overhanging branches their a pain (laughter) and my poor guide dog has to guide me around all these overhanging branches plus all the other obstacles on the pavements so that would be really helpful if people could do that little thing.  It doesn’t cost anything to cut back those branches and especially when their wet and their prickly it’s not very nice to walk into them.  So thank you for listening.

 

If you enjoyed this podcast make sure to read the transcript of Jill Allen-King’s discussion on Disabled Living Allowance (DLA) and the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) here 

 

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The Jill Allen-King Podcast – Episode One: The Disabled Living Allowance For Blind And Partially Sighted People

Jill Allen-King OBE, has been to Buckingham Palace seven times, written books, a well-received autobiography available on Amazon and found time to run for local council for the Libdems in 2019. Jill has helped Perito create two new podcasts for Our World. Without Boundaries, which you can listen to here, and the transcript is below. Thanks for reading. Perito

 

Hello everyone, I’m Jill Allen-King OBE and I’m a totally blind person and up to the year of 1992 there was no financial benefits for blind people. I had gone totally blind at the age of 24 and I was working as a cook in London earning a good wage and we’d just bought a house, had a mortgage and so when I went totally blind I lost my job, I lost all that income and so for the first 20 years of my married life we were really, really poor.

And so in 1992, for the first time ever as a blind person, we were going to be awarded a financial benefit and this was called the Disability Living Allowance (DLA).  Many of our organisations had campaigned for a blindness allowance because people with physical disabilities had always got a financial allowance, Attendance Allowance it was called.

 

But blind people had nothing, not in this country.  In other countries like Germany and Italy they had very good financial provision for blind people but we had nothing, so when the Disability Living Allowance was passed in 1991 and came into practice in 1992, fortunately, I was appointed as a Member of the Board and five blind people were nominated.

 

I sat on the Board for 6 years and I was only the blind person at that time as a member of the Board all the other members had physical disabilities, none had learning difficulties and there wasn’t even anybody who was deaf or hard of hearing, very dominated with physical difficulties and I was also at that time appointed to the Appeal Service which was the independent service that was going to help people when people were turned down for the benefit they could go before a Tribunal Panel which was made up of a Judge who was a Magistrate or a Solicitor, a Doctor or a Consultant and somebody who knew about disability was either a disabled person or worked within Social Services or the Care Service and so I was appointed to that.

 

I did that for 21 years and all the way through I was on the DLA Board I thought it was so unfair that blind people and partially sighted people were eligible for the lower rate of the mobility allowance and the lower rate on the middle rate of the care component. But it was the mobility component that I felt strongly about and still do.

In 2011 the Regulations were changed. We had done a lot of campaigning to say that blind people have got as many, if not more mobility problems, than somebody with a physical disability because many people with physical disabilities can actually drive their own cars.  And so they were receiving about £50.00 a week and we were, and still are, only getting about £12.00 a week, it’s probably a little bit more than that now but that’s roughly the cost and the comparison.

In 2011 after this campaigning the Regulations were changed so that blind people would be entitled for the higher rate of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) , Mobility Component, which was good and that’s what we’d campaigned for but unfortunately what has happened it was only awarded to people up to the age of 65 which, okay, in one way, that was a good idea but in another way it wasn’t.

 

It’s complete discrimination because what has happened is that those people, those blind people that were awarded that higher rate of the PIP benefit can keep it even though they are over 65 now, so I have got friends and colleagues that are 68, 69 and even coming up to 70 now that have got that higher rate mobility allowance that although I, because I was already over 65 in 2011 I am not entitled to it. So you’ve got a lot of people that are receiving this higher rate of mobility allowance and an awful lot of us that can’t receive it and it’s really very unfair and I’ve gone right through to the upper tribunal and the Judge that judged my case said it is unfair and really the regulation should be changed.

I have been writing to my Member of Parliament and I’ve raised it with different Ministers at various times about how this is discrimination between blind people of different ages and even though you have got this Equal Opportunities Commission, it’s not fair we’re not being treated equally at all and in fact I need that higher rate more now, when I was younger I never used taxis, I travelled on the underground, on public transport all the time, I wouldn’t have dreamed of using a taxi unless it was to a venue where I just didn’t know where it was, whereas now I use taxis all the time because I’m older, I’ve had falls on trains, I’ve had falls on pavements, I’ve had arthritis in my knee and I’ve got Tinnitus in my ears so I don’t hear so well and I’ve just lost a lot of confidence with travelling on public transport and therefore I need to use taxis and taxis are very, very expense now, whether your local or in London.

I just feel that the Government should be considering more so the needs of those of us that are older as well as the benefits that are paid to younger people.  I’m not saying younger people don’t need those benefits yes they do but older people need them as much and in fact even more than we did before.  So that is a current campaign that many of us feel very strong about and my MP, Sir David Ames, did raise it in the Commons on the 25th July and hopefully we will have a debate as soon as it is possible on the benefits and how they affect the lives of blind and partially sighted people because really does affect you.

 

When you are blind you have so many extra costs.

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Disabled Access Audit? Top 5 reasons to get one

Top 5 Reasons to get an Access Audit

Next time you are out and about and fall into conversation with someone ask them whether they know anyone with a disability. In March 2019 the Government’s Family Resources Survey was published and showed that:

  • 44% of State Pension age adults reported a disability
  • As did 18% of working age adults
  • & 8% of children.

That’s some 13.3 million of us and roughly 1 in 5. It’s also an increase of 18% from the previous survey in 2008. You’ll agree that the numbers are a huge proportion of the population but, in reality, it is likely to be even more than that. That doesn’t even account for those with temporary illness and aliments.

And this is where you and your organisation make a positive impact.

By organising an access audit of your building you will be setting out on a journey which is going to yield some hefty results. Some of them are so subtle you won’t notice right away. However, enough are going to be so positive that you’ll want to examine access in much greater detail just to see what other benefits there are for your organisation out there, just waiting to be found.

We’ll be chatting through the legal perspective of why you should do an access audit in another article because for now it’s worth focusing on the other important elements in our Top Five Reasons to get an Access Audit.

 

The logo of Perito. It shows a negative space image of a building 1) An Access Audit helps Everyone, Everywhere

Did you know that less than 8% of disabled people use wheelchairs? Wheelchair access might be the first thing that springs to mind but actually a vast number of impairments just aren’t visible. Not only do some people have more than one impairment but they are also likely to have a non-visible impairment. Which means that the majority of people might not even appear disabled.

Being tall, short, carpal tunnel syndrome or perhaps just a fractured wrist, broken ribs, sore neck… the list goes on. It contains thousands of points which can be a pain day to day but amount to problems we all face. Problems that can be overcome with small every day changes, some clever design and access planning. Access for everyone, everywhere is a major goal. A goal which can start with an access audit and lead to where ever we all want to go.

 

The logo of Perito. It shows a negative space image of a building 2) An Access Audit helps People

The American author Earl Nightingale once said that ‘our environment, the world in which we live and work, is a mirror of our attitudes and expectations‘.

If we want to have dynamic and high performing teams in both the workplace and in society in general, then starting work from the ground up is worth a lot. There are a lot of buzz words surrounding teams and management. At the core of them all is that if people feel at ease in their environment, whatever and wherever that is, then productivity and performance improves. Access audits can aid organisations in working smarter, not harder by optimising the environment for your most important assets – people.

Then add in the concept that an access audit can actually support everyone, everywhere and you can really see obvious return on investment – right across your entire organisation.

 

The logo of Perito. It shows a negative space image of a building 3) An Access Audit helps Cash Flow

We all know that businesses live and die by cash flow. It is one of the fundamental economics of micro businesses or  global corporate. One of the few points where no matter what the size of the organisation they are all equally at risk.

Now consider that over 6.5 million households include 1 or more people with a long term illness or disability. That is a huge amount of wealth and spending power.

About £212 billion to be exact.

The spending power of disabled people is known as the Purple Pound and an access audit is a starting point for making the changes necessary to optimise your organisation so it best supports potential customers. There are occasions where business owners are reluctant to make the change because they don’t see disabled customers. This is a fallacy for two reasons.

  1. There are visual and non-visual impairments. The business owner might have simply not seen that their environment is not catering to disabled customers.
  2. According to the Papworth Trust three quarters of disabled people have left a shop or business because of poor disability awareness or lack of suitable facilities.

It isn’t a complex calculation for us all to make, nor is it a secret. There is a recognised market out there that any organisation can access and £212 Billion says it’s worth a look.

The logo of Perito. It shows a negative space image of a building 4) An Access Audit helps with Everyday Design

Have you ever done that thing with a door where you push when you should have pulled, or vice versa? Most of us have and most of us have also felt a bit of a plonker for getting it wrong. But what if it wasn’t your fault?

One of the constituent parts of an access audit is signage and whilst a door handle isn’t signage the analogy does fit the purpose because like the handle, signage could be counter-intuitive.

Consider that door again. Look a little closer and you might see a tiny sign on it saying ‘push’ but there isn’t a push plate (that would be far too simple). Instead, this door has a pull handle. Most of us would pull because that is what is instinctive but in reality the design is what is wrong here, not our intellect.

Signage is often taken for granted by many but it is an essential part of making your way around the world and when signs are poorly marked or plain and simply confusing it makes life harder for everyone, everywhere.

 

The logo of Perito. It shows a negative space image of a building 5) An Access Audit helps with Recruitment & Employment

Down the river from Perito HQ is a huge piece of land that held an oil refinery and the plan is now to make this site a mega hub for transportation of goods into London, whether by the river or by road. The refinery used to be a traditional employer and when it shut it had a significant impact of the local workforce.

Despite its automation and modern technology it this new site is going to need people. People who will live, work and visit the businesses and facilities that will make up the new site. The plan is that some 50% of the workers will be taken from a talent pool in the surrounding area.

If you have ever been involved in recruitment you will know that finding the right skill set is often hard and with the further restriction of finding the staff from within the local area places more strain on finding the right talent, first time.

This is where an access audit can help. By opening up your environment you will naturally be able to attract the greatest array of talent to your organisation. Think back to the stat at the top of the blog. 1 in 5 people report a disability.

Now, it could be that your organisation might still chance upon the individual with the niche set of skills that you need. An access audit would be a starter for ten in making your organisation more attractive to work for that chances are that candidate will come to you.

There you have it. 5 great reasons to get accessible, all you need to do is make that start. Thanks for reading and if you found the article interesting please share it around and help get the word out about how important accessibility and getting an access audit really is!

Together, we are Perito

 

An Access audit can be performed by the company Perito Ltd
Perito Accessibility Specialists