Disability Access – More than just for Wheelchair Users

  • March 28, 2014
  • Bruce Bromley

What is disability?

Before getting into the disability access discussion, let’s first define “Disability”. It’s amazing just how many people in our society do not entirely understand the broad definition of “Disability”. Only once we understand the broad spectrum of “Disability”, can we then understand why and how to provide access for people with disabilities in the community.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines disability as an umbrella term, which covers impairments, activity limitations, as well as participation restrictions. Impairment refers to a problem in body structure or function, activity limitations is

Impairment refers to a problem in body structure or function, activity limitations is difficulty that is encountered by a person to execute an action or a task, and participation restriction refers to the issues encountered by a person to be involved in meaningful activities.

As we can see, the definition of disability is not that straightforward – it does not simply refer to visible disabilities!

So now that we have defined these terms, surely more of us can think of people we know, not necessarily people in wheelchairs, who might have impairments, activity limitations, or participation restrictions. These people would potentially require accessible features in the community in order to have full social inclusion.
For a person with disability to be able to fully participate in their environments, this heavily relies on the harmonious interaction between features of the person’s characteristics, their environments, and activities they engage in.

To put this in perspective, I’ll give you an example:
Let’s say someone with limited mobility who uses a walker is attending a music festival. This person needs to use the toilet, and the only temporary accessible toilet that has been provided at the festival is somewhere in the middle of a grass yard…..with no accessible path to get there. What is the point of providing this accessible toilet if people who would require an accessible toilet can’t even reach this toilet?! You see, this is where we need to think holistically and endeavour to make the environment as barrier free as possible for all!

Types of disabilities

If we think about it, most of us will experience one or more forms of disability at some point in our lives. Remember, disability is not always easily recognised. We need to move away from thinking that we only need to make the environment accessible for people with visible disabilities. We should be aiming to have the environment barrier free, providing equal access for all!!

One last thing……