North West Charity Highlights How Business Social Distancing Measures Could Hinder People with Disabilities

Source: Access Fylde Coast 23 June 2020

A charity supporting people with disabilities has warned of the impact social distancing measures being introduced by shops and other venues could have if they are not implemented carefully.

Disability First, a Blackpool-based charity, has issued urgent safety advice to shops re-opening after the Covid lockdown and to other venues set to open in July.  The charity is spearheading the Access Fylde Coast project, a government-funded initiative to make local businesses and venues accessible and welcoming  to people with disabilities.

Access Fylde Coast’s ‘Top Tips for Businesses’ are designed to ensure that people with disabilities can visit premises and observe social distancing measures in safety. Key factors businesses need to consider are minimising trip hazards, creating clear pathways for wheelchair users and ensuring clear communication from staff to disabled visitors about the social distancing measures in operation.

One in five of people in the UK has a disability and nationally the ‘Purple £’, (income generated from disabled visitors and their families), is worth an estimated £249 billion. Local businesses will be keen to attract some of this income after months in lockdown but they also need to be mindful of how social distancing measures will impact on people with both visible and invisible disabilities.

Alan Reid,  CEO of Disability First,  said,  ‘As we come out of the Covid lockdown, It is very important that we highlight potential risks posed by some social distancing measures being introduced by businesses. We are asking businesses to consider the needs of vulnerable visitors when planning changes to their premises and/or customer pathways.

‘We have released specific guidance through the Access Fylde Coast initiative  to help businesses observe social distancing whilst also ensuring the safety, well-being and customer experience of visitors with disabilities’.

‘Top Tips for Businesses’ issued through the  Access Fylde Coast initiative:

A-Frame Noticeboards

With an increase in the use of A-frames to display information, be careful they do not cause obstructions in aisles and customer pathways  – especially for those with a visual impairment.

Temporary Queuing Systems

Consider if you are creating obstructions and hazards for people who may have learning disabilities or visual impairments.

Facemasks

Consider adjustments for people who lip read. This may include clear visors or moving to a safe distance and removing the mask to communicate.

Temporary Signage

Block capitals can be difficult for people with learning difficulties and visual impairments, so please consider font type and size.

Websites/ Social media

Many people with disabilities research before they visit a place or a business. They don’t just check out accessibility (ramps, handrails, toilets etc): pictures of your business can  also help people with conditions such as autism to get acquainted with the lay-out and minimise anxiety. This is important to highlight new changes to structure and systems after the Covid lockdown.

Alan Reid commented;

“We know that many businesses have been extremely busy adapting their businesses and introducing the new normal of social distancing. We also want to encourage staff and fellow customers to be mindful of other customers with disabilities. For example, people who lip read won’t be able to understand a member of staff who is wearing a facemask, A-boards may be necessary, but where they are placed can hinder a customer with disabilities and some people with hidden disabilities or visual impairments may find it hard to read the messages being communicated to them if they are too small, in a hard to read font, or in block capitals

“We have faced unprecedented times and businesses have been hard hit. By asking owners to make some simple adjustments for people with disabilities, we hope it will help businesses attract more visitors with the ‘Purple £’ to the Fylde Coast as the lockdown measures ease.”

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