February 26, 2019
Paralympian and MBE, DL, Hannah Cockcroft, has spoken candidly about her belief that public understanding of disability has taken a step back since the 2012 London Paralympics.
The gold medallist was a stand-out competitor in London and is a campaigner for disability rights. Because of the games, Hannah believed the public perception of disability completely changed for the better.
She said: “I felt it made people a lot more accepted and [made other people] realise we’re just normal people.”
Hannah feels however the legacy of the hugely successful 2012 Paralympic Games didn’t last. Now seven years on, she believes society has turned its back on the accessibility struggles disabled people face on a daily basis.
“If we don’t question inaccessibility it’s never going to change.”
In partnership with Skipton Building Society, Hannah recently highlighted this issue when she surveyed a selection of 2,000 adults, who had either a physical or mental disability and asked if accessibility was an issue they faced. Shockingly, 45% affirmed it was something they struggled with, especially when shopping.
Access for All
Armed with a body camera, Hannah herself visited various shops, cafes and banks on the high street to assess their levels of accessibility and show first-hand the difficulties she faced as a wheelchair user.
Hannah said: “It has really actually shocked me how inaccessible a lot of places in the city are.”
Stairs, inadequate changing facilities, cluttered floors and lack of basic accessibility features like wheelchair ramps were some of the problems she encountered. One shop had a lift but astonishingly it had been broken for months with no plans to fix it.
Hannah continued: “I think the important thing to point out is that accessibility affects everybody. It’s not something that is centred around disability. Anyone could break their leg one day and suddenly need access.”
While some high street shops do take accessibility seriously, and efforts are being made to increase understanding, there’s still a lot of work to be done to ensure inclusion for all. The launch of Purple Tuesday, a day dedicated to promote inclusive shopping late last year, did go some way in highlighting the issue of inaccessibility.
Hannah argues: “If we don’t question inaccessibility it’s never going to change.”
We hope shops continue to evolve, and public support can help in the fight for equality for all.