I recently attended a public meeting. That may not sound like news to most of you reading this, but I was almost prevented from going. Why? Because I am profoundly deaf - what I needed to get equality of access to that meeting was communication support from a professional communicator and that provision almost did not happen.
At the last minute what I requested was provided by one of the partners to the event and I had equal access to a very interesting event. An induction loop for hearing aid users attending to replace the venue’s broken one was also found - at the last minute. Well done to the organisers and others who helped to make that happen, but the need to respond at the last minute could have been avoided with proper forward planning, to everyone’s benefit.
Any organisation in receipt of any amount of public sector money needs to abide by the Public Sector Equality Duty, which means that all disability access issues should be planned for well in advance. Being ready to meet access requests will avoid last minute problems. I know very well how limited local authority funds can be for small organisations; that’s why I believe all funding authorities should have an access budget set aside that community organisations can apply to, independent of any grant money they receive. Creating equality of access doesn’t always mean spending money, though - it’s the forward planning that’s important.
If anyone wishes to find out more about how to plan ahead so all your public meetings can truly say “all welcome” please contact me via:
East Sussex Disability Association
1 Faraday Close
Tel: 01323 514500
Chair, East Sussex Disability Association