Our Events team recently spent a full day out of their comfort zone, immersed in a tailor-made experiential workshop dealing with the issues of inclusivity and accessibility in all facets of live events.
Testing different types of public transport for disabled travellers
The Events team were split into three groups to plan and implement their journey between Milton Keynes and London. The challenge was to arrive at One Great George Street, an impressive Grade II listed building located in the heart of Westminster, by 10:00, using only public transport. Team One selected train then bus; Team Two used train then taxi and Team Three, train and tube. Each team was allocated a wheelchair, glasses to simulate visual impairment and ear plugs, simulating audio impairment. By stepping into the metaphoric shoes of disabled travellers, the teams were given a rare opportunity to get first-hand experience with the challenges they encountered along the way.
The realisation of challenges that the disabled experience
Aside from the realisation of how frustratingly long these additional challenges can make a ‘simple’ journey, the three teams discovered enlightening truths about how ill-equipped the general public transport infrastructure is. They also learnt how ill-equipped the majority of the general public were in their interactions with disabled people – from being afraid to speak or give eye contact, to being widely inappropriate and overbearing. The challenges of the journey to central London were many! Poor lighting and unmarked steps, reverberating sound, stairs and escalators, no wheelchair access at certain underground stations, people pushing in front to jump into taxis and people simply not looking.
Disabled access in the event itself
But gold was waiting at the end of the rainbow - One Great George Street opened its doors to the team, showcasing a masterpiece in inclusivity and accessibility to all. On arrival, there was momentary panic, as those in wheelchairs were alarmed to see steps at the entrance. However, these quickly and smoothly folded back to reveal a hidden lift, enabling wheelchair users to enter the building by the same entrance as ambulant guests, rather than be pushed round to the back door. The team was incredibly impressed with the venue’s inclusivity features: a brilliantly designed hidden lift, permanent and portable induction loops, a lowered reception desk, strobe fire alarms, a two-way opening disabled toilet and shower room, purpose built accessible theatres, specifically widened areas to accommodate seating areas in the café…and the list goes on! Not to forget, this was all in perfect keeping with the heritage of this historic building. Project Executive Caroline Phillips, was blown away by the facilities: “It’s just amazing how much difference a small change will make to the suitability of a room for an impaired guest or delegate. It’s the incredibly thoughtful design that makes such a huge difference.”
Amy-Jo Brown, Project Manager, was surprised at how “A Grade II listed building transformed itself into an award winning accessible venue. The investment has paid for itself threefold or more – there are no excuses for new builds.”