Chris interviewed for launch of podcast on eye health and sight loss

VISION 2020 UK, the umbrella organisation which leads collaboration in eye health and sight loss, has launched a podcast. This new platform will look at the major topics of interest within the eye health and sight loss sector, with expert analysis, opinion and debate. The podcast is an educational forum for professionals, service users and carers as well as those with no knowledge of the topics.

Hosted by John Welsman, Guide Dogs Policy Business Partner, the podcasts will be released on a monthly basis and will focus on one topic or interview per episode, highlighting the work of the VISION 2020 UK Standing Committees, as well as discussions with leaders in the sector on topics such as rehabilitation, dementia, children and certification.

The first two podcasts are now available through the VISION 2020 UK website, on audioboom, and will soon be found on iTunes (search ‘VISION 2020 UK’). These episodes feature Mercy Jeyasingham, CEO, VISION 2020 UK and Chris! Chris gives listeners an understanding of his background, his achievements to date and his areas of concern and interest around eye health and sight loss. One of his major areas of concern is the issue of shared space.

John Welsman, commented, “Podcasts are a great way of discussing complex topics as well as being entertaining and informative. The ability of people to listen to the podcast on their commute, in their car or at home is a great way of communicating these issues. I look forward to working with VISION 2020 UK to create an engaging and professional podcast”.

Listen to Chris’s interview

 

“Pubs are for everyone; Why being accessible is important.” Guidance launched.

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has published updated guidance for pubs to help licensees make their venue as welcoming as possible to those with access needs. Chris was at the launch and is delighted to endorse the guidance saying it “provides lots of useful information for licensees to help those with access needs enjoy the Great British pub.” The foreword to the guidance is written by Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson DBE, who points out that “accessibility is not simply about physical access to the pub, but rather it is about creating the best experience for all who visit”. The guidance gives six key features for an accessible pub: 1. Access ramp at door 2. Hearing loops on bar 3. Large print menu 4. Accessible toilet with disability sign on door 5. Staff trained to meet needs of disabled customers 6. Layout – easy to navigate and clear of obstacles.Let’s hope the guidance is circulated widely and embraced by all pubs. Read the guidance in full.

Delighted reaction to newly established “Paulley Principle” on accessible transport

Chris and Lottie in front of bus

The Supreme Court today ruled on a long running dispute between FirstGroup Plc and Doug Paulley. In 2012, Mr Paulley, a wheelchair user, had been unable to board a bus when another passenger with a pushchair refused to move allow him to use the space. Mr Paulley  had argued operator FirstGroup’s “requesting, not requiring” policy was discriminatory. The court ruled that this policy of requiring a driver to simply request a non-wheelchair user to vacate the space without taking any further steps was unjustified. Chris welcomes the “important milestone” but noted that as the judgement was with limits it may be necessary to look again at issues with existing legislation.  Further legislation may offer the clarity and emphasis that is so urgently required to make sure disabled people feel confident about exercising an equal right to access public transport.

Supreme Court Judgement

Chris welcomes Commons Report into Accessible Stadia

Top of the league clubs: Derby County, Wrexham, Tranmere Rovers, Egham Town; all have been named as examples of excellence in making their clubs truly welcoming of disabled supporters. You will note that none of these clubs are in the Premier League. In Sept 2015 the Premier League promised to make all clubs accessible to disabled people. The House of Commons Select Committee on Culture Media and Sport report published today states that it’s “very clear” that sports clubs, notably many of those with very considerable income and resources, have not done anywhere near enough for sports fans with disabilities in recent years, despite the increase in income many of those clubs have enjoyed.” Given the examples above I would say it is clearly a question of will rather than resources and Greg Clarke of the Football Association agrees, telling the committee “that for the Premier League the problem was not money”. Football is our national sport, beloved by so many of us, and it needs to rediscover its moral compass. If not on its own then with some help. Both the commons committee and the Minister for Sport have said they would support legal action against clubs that miss the August deadline and Bill Bush, executive director at the Premier League spoke of fines of up to £25,000. I would urge both the Premier League and the Equality and Human Rights Commission to use all means at their disposal to ensure that disabled supporters are no longer treated as second class citizens when they want to support their football team.

Chris’s letter to the Times: Football’s Failure

Watch Channel 4’s report: Are football stadia no go for disabled?

BBC Sport: Disabled access: Premier League clubs may face sanctions over lack of improvement

What can law firms learn about diversity from the world of sport?

Still from Travers Smith Diversity VideoLaw firm, Travers Smith, have recently launched a diversity and inclusion initiative called “be a game-changer”, which they hope will harness the power of sport to help the company build diverse and collaborative teams and create an inclusive workplace. Chris took part in a though provoking panel discussion that explored several themes around this idea and spoke powerfully of his own experiences in sport, both as competitor and then director at London 2012. One of the lessons he explored was how companies can identify and support talent. There were also fascinating insights into how unconscious bias works and what individuals can do to make a difference, and ultimately create a more inclusive environment for everyone. Watch a short film to learn more about aims of the initiative.

 

Leadership lessons: Reflections on Rio

Less than four weeks before the opening ceremony of the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, there was a real chance the Games would be cancelled: not watered-down, less than it could have been, but literally no Games at all. The reason was a complete lack of interest in the Paralympics by the organising committee’s top team. Chris has reflected on the key leadership lessons to be drawn from almost catastrophe of the Rio Paralympics for Changeboard HR Magazine.

 

Why did the blind man cross the road?

Lord Holmes and Lottie at side of Exhibition Road as taxi passes

I have been campaigning for some time against a street design approach known as “shared space” which has, de facto, led to the creation of unsafe environments which discriminate against blind people and negatively impact the vast majority of users.

The Department for Transport defines shared space as:

A street or place designed to improve pedestrian movement and comfort by reducing the dominance of motor vehicles and enabling all users to share the space rather than follow the clearly defined rules implied by more conventional designs.”

The key part here is a desire for “all users to share the space” so “traffic signals are often removed, with indications of priority at minor junctions omitted… conventional kerbs are omitted and pedestrians share an undifferentiated surface with vehicles.”

On Wednesday I gave evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee whose inquiry into disability and the built environment has asked “to what extent do shared space schemes in roads and highways cause barriers for disabled people and how can these be resolved?”

Throughout the course of my campaign, increasing numbers of professionals have responded by asserting that shared space is no longer a useful term. Indeed, the man who claims responsibility for introducing the term in 2003, Ben Hamilton-Baillie, who also gave evidence, claimed that “the term has stuck in ways it was never meant to.” Discomfort over the term has even extended to one local authority currently introducing a scheme in Bodmin, where the council website now statestechnically we are not delivering a true shared space scheme.”

Whilst, like any campaigner, I am pleased to have arrived at an area of consensus, and I can certainly agree that “shared space” is a complicated, confusing and contested term I would also have to insist that as long as the government continues to use the term in official guidance the confusion will continue.

A further area of agreement that all sides have arrived at is the need for much better data. It seems very hard to find evidence that satisfactorily answers questions about the accessibility of these schemes as it is so rarely included as an objective, or indeed consideration, of a design plan.

Clearly, arguing about a definition of shared space is far less useful than taking a closer look at design components and what impact those features have. I am in no way opposed to: innovation and change, a more attractive public realm, or town centre regeneration but it is absolutely essential to look at how this is achieved.

If inclusive design is not the bedrock from the outset, schemes will inevitably fail, exclude, cause confusion, chaos and significant potential cost to councils facing legal challenges and further works. Pedestrian crossings are a key area. Of the 14 local authorities enacting U-Turns on their so called shared space schemes, 11 have reintroduced crossings.

The DfT have suggested that a review of shared space currently underway by the Chartered Institute of Highway Transportation will reconcile many of these concerns although CIHT stated yesterday at the evidence session that although their review will make recommendations it will NOT be sufficient to update guidance and that that would require further input from the government.

Real change will only be achieved when local authorities put inclusive design at the heart of any work in the public realm and this means asking at the outset “how does a blind person cross the road”?

 

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