How to make your venue more accessible (and why you should)

Is your venue accessible to disabled customers? Here are the steps to improve accessibility so you can welcome in everyone

In these testing Covid-19 times, can you afford to miss out on business from ‘Purple Pound’ – disabled – customers? Fiona Jarvis, co-founder of the Blue Badge Access Awards and founder of Blue Badge Style, shares what you can do to improve accessibility.

Fiona Jarvis

Why should a business become more accessible?

As well as the obvious – anyone should be able to go out and enjoy a meal with their friends and family – the value of the disabled market is massive and so many businesses are missing out on that. The Covid-19 pandemic is a good time to take a look at what kind of business you’d like to be and who your market is. Not all disabled people are on the breadline. Many are not, many are quite wealthy and actually have spare money they’d like to spend on socialising.

“The most important thing is to treat disabled customers with dignity, respect and kindness. We’re people too!”
- Fiona Jarvis, Blue Badge Style

What simple upgrades can venues make that won’t cost too much?

Easy access for disabled customers is essential. I’ve been to venues that say they’re accessible but there’s actually a 3″ step at the front door. If someone is in an electric wheelchair they can’t get in. You can buy a portable metal ramp for under £100. It doesn’t have to be permanent, just bring it out when it’s needed. Go through your venue with a baby buggy and you’ll soon notice the steps and tricky-to-navigate bits.

Metal ramp
“14.1m people in the UK are disabled”
- Family Resources Survey 2018/19

What larger changes would help accessibility?

Toilets are often a big issue. I’ve even seen steps into a so-called ‘disabled toilet!’ Installing a new toilet from scratch isn’t a cheap job but adding hand/grab rails to an existing toilet could work if it’s a larger one. Four rails are ideal – two vertical at the back of the toilet and two horizontal ones either side. Don’t presume that a toilet can’t be stylish. These days there are lots of options available, it doesn’t have to look like a hospital toilet.

“£163m is the amount of 'purple pound' money lost each month by restaurants, pubs and clubs that aren't accessible”
- wearepurple.org.uk

What’s the best way for venues to advertise they are accessible?

The first place customers will look is on the business’s website. I see ‘wheelchair friendly’ a lot but unfortunately this doesn’t mean anything as wheelchairs can vary in size hugely. I want to see photos of the accessible features. It’s so awkward to arrive somewhere you think is accessible and find out that you can’t get in. Save your customers that embarrassment. Put a photo gallery on your website. Take a look at examples on our Blue Badge Style site and we can even make one for you.

“75% of disabled people and their families have walked away from a UK business because of poor accessibility or customers service”
- wearepurple.org.uk

Some disabilities aren’t visible. How can venues help these customers?

If feasible, having a quiet area in your venue is great. People who are hard of hearing or those with sensory problems will appreciate less background noise. Some restaurants and pubs can be very dark. Try and have a couple of tables that are well-lit. Your partially-sighted customers will thank you for it.

Put your venue on show

After you’ve made some updates, get customers to leave a review on Fiona’s website, Blue Badge Style, to show you’re an accessible venue or enter into 2021’s Blue Badge Access Awards.

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