Monday, 27 December 2010

Braille and other media for visually impaired people

Hi Guys

Have you seen those pages with massed of little bumps? Braille was devised in 1821 by Louise Braille, a blind Frenchman. Each Braille character, or cell, is made up of six dot positions, arranged in a rectangle containing two columns of three dots each. A dot may be raised at any of the six positions to form sixty-four possible subsets, including the arrangement in which no dots are raised. For reference purposes, a particular permutation may be described by naming the positions where dots are raised, the positions being universally numbered 1 to 3, from top to bottom, on the left, and 4 to 6, from top to bottom, on the right. For example, dots 1-3-4 would describe a cell with three dots raised, at the top and bottom in the left column and on top of the right column, i.e., the letter m. The lines of horizontal Braille text are separated by a space, much like visible printed text, so that the dots of one line can be differentiated from the Braille text above and below. Punctuation is represented by its own unique set of characters.
Almost two million people are suffering from sight loss to one degree or another. That's about 1:30. And the majority have gradual sight deterioration through Age-Related Macular Degeneration. But there are many guiding aids now around to help. Braille is just one of these. Unfortunately there are only about 100,000 people who can read Braille and fewer who write it.
The Access Audit Company have carried out street audits and feel not enough has been done. Possibly through lack of understanding. It certainly isn't due to financial restraints because most aids are low or no-cost, just a bit of clever thinking.
There is some help out on the street including at traffic lights. Put your fingers under the control box and when the lights show red you'll feel a revolving bar,. This is particularly useful for people who can neither see or hear.
You'll notice that it is customary for street furniture, that is signs, lamp-posts, other signs, waste bijns and so on to be close to the kerb or buildings so that there is a clear pathway down pavements. It is now usual now for tables and chairs put out by cafes etc to be cordoned off, usually with cloth or metal panels. Just a bar or rope between bollards is insufficient and in fact I know of a local cafe that has just added the panels as a blind person stumbled over the rope they had in place. With the smoking ban in pl;ace most places now have an outside area so there are more pavement tables and chairs. Unfairly, I think, some councils introduced a ban on tables and chairs to make a clearway for visually impiared people: then they introduced a charge to cafes for putting chairs and tabes back out. Some people might suggest this is a cash-cow!!
There are also tactile slabs with dimples that denote a  crosingg place, such as flush kerbs for wheelchairs and buggies, traffic lights and zebra crossings. Take a look when you are ouit and you'll notice some are light coloured and some dark. The darker ones show safe crossing places.
Interestingly there have been local navigation systems around for some years now and these are improving year on year. Local systems usually work with a hand-help unit that receives from transmitters attached to street lamps and signs. They tell the informer about shops they are passing, road crossings and points of interest. The latest run of satnav technology. And of course these are getting more accurate all the time, now with some down to just a couple of metres.
Shop signs are also often recognizable by shape or colour by us all. This is particularly useful to partially sighted people. Think about  pharmacies with the green cross, the post office symbol which is so easy to recognise.
This still doesn't help many people who have a severe sight loss and I noticed a guy with a white stick standing on the edge of the pavement the other day whilst several people just passed by!! It takes but a couple of seconds to stop and help. I'm sure you do so keep on. When you do don't grab the person by the arm and pull them along, just offer an arm they can hang onto and guide them, talking about any obstacles or problems ahead. Try it and you'll feel good afterwards too. Remember we all need help sometimes in our lives and it's often the small things like taking an extra 30 seconds to help someone cross a busy road or direct to a shop.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

There are approximately 10 million disabled people in Great Britain covered by the Disability Discrimination Act: about 18 percent of the population. There are over 6.9 million disabled people are of working age which represents 19 percent of the working population. Only 50 percent of disabled people of working age are in employment compared to 81 percent of non-disabled people of working age. 76% of disabled people with a higher education qualification are in employment compared with 90% of non-disabled people. Of those with no qualification, 23% of disabled people are in employment compared with 60% of non-disabled people. Disabled people are almost twice as likely as non-disabled people to have no qualification at all. Disabled people are more than twice as likely as non-disabled people to be out of work and claiming benefits. Of the 2.4 million disabled people on state benefits and not in work nearly a million would like to work. The incidence of disability increases with age. Whilst 9 per cent of adults aged 16-24 are disabled, this increases to about 33 per cent in the 50 to retirement age category. In 2004 40% of the English population are over 45, the age at which the incidence of disability begins to increase.

 And here is the rub.
One in every three people either has a disability or has a close relative or friend who is disabled. Office of National Statistics, Census 2001 The estimated annual purchasing power of people with disabilities is £80 billion. Family Resource Survey 2002/2003
That means that the chances are that either you or a friend is disabled, so it's very close to all of us. AND if you have a business then there is around £80billion worth of purchasing that you might be missing out on.
And if they aren't good enough reasons then you have a legal responsibility. So what is holding businesses back from making access better? It seems that many businesses think the work would be too expensive. Others think that it doesn't matter. What do you think?
I believe that you can improve access for most businesses and properties

Visually impaired people often just need a guiding arm

Just back from a trip to Liverpool to carry out a disability access audit for a company before they sign the lease on their office.
While travelling I sat next to a lady who was blind and we had a most interesting discussion. Well, actually she answered some questions I had in the back of my mind.
Most people just associate disability with wheelchair users: they forget those who can't hear or see to well, have learning difficulties, arthritis, are very short or tall, have no feelings through nerve loss or the many other impairments.
Some disabilities are not obvious and some that you think will be, aren't There are also different levels of disability. For example most people who are registered blind can actually see to some degree. They may just be able to see shapes and colours: might only be able to read at a few inches away from their face. I remember a friend who had a guide dog but could read at very close quarters. When she read the paper on the train she'd get comments - so she stopped reading in public. But on one occasion I recall her almost falling over on the beach when she just couldn't see a large piece of driftwood.
My co-traveller told me how difficult it was recognising steps and stairs. and that she'd fallen down a couple of times.There are special slabs that are used to tell blind people when they are approaching steps and stairs. These are called tactile slabs and the one for steps has a corduroy pattern. These are often used in the wrong place which could lead toreal problems. Only last week I saw the corduroy slabs running along a railway platform. This could be mistaken for a step with dire consequences.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Have an Access Audit carried out and bring customers in

"There is so much to do here to make the building accessible that we can't afford it!"  "We are on rhe first floor so we can't get disabled people in here"
Both these statements are wrong. Both are said be people who are either mis-guided or don't want the trouble that they imagine disabled people would be. And when you speak about disabled people most think of just wheelchair users.Wheelchair users make up a tiny number. Many have impairments you wouldn't even know about. Look around you now. How many people can you see who have a heart condition, bad ashma, can't walk far or up steps, have poor eyesight or can't hear very well. The list goes on. A bit like an iceberg. We only see the tip.
So you should be thinking about an access audit if you haven't done so already. It's not too late.
Up til now most cases that have been brought against businesses in relation to disability discrimination have been settled out of court and so you don't know about them but it is happening. I think that this is going to change. On the whole disabled people have been patient and understanding. Well! In many cases they don't know their rights and often they don't feel they can make a difference.
An access audit is completed with a report laying out the steps you need to take to make your business accessible to all. Many are written by surveyors and architects and give exact specifications and are couched in technical terms. This is great if being read by some-one with the knowledge. But often the facilities manager or person responsible doesn't undestand and just passes the list onto a builder. When the work is complete they have to rely on the builder that the work is technically correct.
Mike Leahy writes script reports in layman's language that are easily understood and include the reason for the adjustment too. He takes a pragmatic apprioach and often knows of a quick fix or low cost adjustment. He'll also grade recommendations so you can deal with the priorities first and perhaps leave the "best practice" items til last.
If you haven't assessed what is necessary or taken any action do so now. It will ensure you comply with the legisltaion but equally important will broaden your customer base.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Are you losing business from over10 million potential customers?

Do you run a business? If so do you know about the Disability Discrimination Act 1995? Have you taken steps to ensure that disabled people can buy your products and services as easily as non-disabled people can?   Every disabled person and their families may be unable to buy from you because you haven't made provision for them.

There are over 10 million disabled people in the UK and each of them is a potential customer for you. Add to that their families and the number of potential customers is huge. 

The number of suppliers I have met recently who think that  having a website will allow disabled people to buy from them and that's all they need to do.  WRONG! You can't have a meal over the internet. Many people won't buy clothes over the internet because they want to try clothes on.

Think about the customer service you offer. Do you find actually talking to possible customers encourages them to buy from you? Do you train your staff to sell? Isn't it all about making a  connection with people and helping them make a buying decision? Yes! Of course it is. Yes I know that Argos sell from a catalogue so you can't feel and touch the products but you can take them back over a very generous returns guarantee. But isn't it true that they have cultivated this as a way of saving money. You assume that the prices are competitive . . .  but if you compare you'll possible find really competitive prices elswhere

1. There are over 6.9 million disabled people of working age which represents 19% of the working population.[1]
   2. There are over 10 million disabled people in Britain, of whom 5 million are over state pension age.[2]
   3. There are two million people with sight problems in the UK.[3]

Families with disabled children

   1. There are 770,00 disabled children under the age of 16 in the UK. That equates to 1 child in 20.[4]
   2. Only 8% of families get services from their local social services.[5]
   3. It costs up to three times as much to raise a disabled child as it does to raise a child without disabilities.[6]

Disability and employment

   1. There are currently 1.3 million disabled people in the UK who are available for and want to work.[7]
   2. Only half of disabled people of working age are in work (50%), compared with 80% of non disabled people.[8]
   3. 23% of disabled people have no qualifications compared to 9% of non disabled people.[9]
   4. Nearly one in five people of working age (7 million, or 18.6%) in Great Britain have a disability.[10]

The ageing population

   1. Over the last 25 years the percentage of the population aged 65 and over increased from 15 per cent in 1983 to 16 per cent in 2008, an increase of 1.5 million people in this age group. Over the same period, the percentage of the population aged 16 and under decreased from 21 per cent to 19 per cent. This trend is projected to continue. By 2033, 23 per cent of the population will be aged 65 and over compared to 18 per cent aged 16 or younger.[11]
   2. The fastest population increase has been in the number of those aged 85 and over, the ’oldest old‘. In 1983, there were just over 600,000 people in the UK aged 85 and over. Since then the numbers have more than doubled reaching 1.3 million in 2008. By 2033 the number of people aged 85 and over is projected to more than double again to reach 3.2 million, and to account for 5 per cent of the total population.