Colette Walker: A new approach to public infrastructure? Start by making buildings accessible

Ben Wray

Colette Walker, Women for Indy national committee member and a disabled woman and carer to disabled young adult, explains the broad scope of things that make up accessible buildings, and how the proposal for a new approach to building schools and hospitals through a Scottish National Infrastructure Company should have accessibility at the top of its priorities

WHEN we hear the word ‘accessibility’ I would guess that the majority of people would think about wheelchair users.

This is certainly not the case. I recently organised a women for independence national council event in Paisley on this exact topic. Attendees learnt that there was much more to the terminology than what they might have originally thought, which was exactly my aiming in holding the event.

Of course we have building regulation standards but in my opinion, I feel in 2018 this could be significantly improved.

Common Weal’s Scottish National Infrastructure Company ( SNIC ) proposal was recently past at SNP spring conference in Aberdeen in June. It should ensure that all new future infrastructure projects are publicly accessible with complete best practice from the ground up, indoor and outdoors consultation with local access panels, and disability forums. Seeking their knowledge and expertise, as they are mainly made up of disabled members with first hand experience, and you can’t get better advice than that.

READ MORE: #SNP18 votes unanimously to create a Scottish National Infrastructure Company

Some accessibility areas to consider are proper colour contrasting. Pubs, hotels and cafes are very guilty for decorating with dark carpets, dark coloured wood tables and chairs. This makes navigating for the visually impaired very difficult and dangerous as everything blends into each other. Objects become invisible.

Lighting is an area that is not regarded as much as it should be. Use daylight bulbs. Positioning is very important as well. Where possible use dimmer switches as not one light level suits all. This rule extends from indoors to outdoors.

Stairs should be clearly marked just before the edge of the step. If it’s on the step it could cause accidents with someone missing the edge and falling. It’s only necessary for top and bottom steps to be clearly marked.

READ MORE: Independence for women: National conference to amplify women’s voices in politics and beyond

If arranging an event, you should allocate a ‘quiet room’ for those who have heightened sensory issues, ASD and mental ill health, so when the noise level becomes too much they can take a break for how long or short a time they require.

Accessible toilets are not just for wheelchair users. Carers with young adults with a disability need to use them. As a parent carer to my 17 year old disabled son I cannot take him into a ladies cubicle like  I used to when he was a little boy. People who use Stoma bags or catheters need that privacy for clearing them out. Not every disability and health condition is visible.

These are just a few examples of areas that have to be better considered, but there are plenty more.

READ MORE: ‘Disabled people are too often left behind’: Scottish universities challenged to improve disabled admissions

In conclusion I urge Scotland’s future SNIC to build indoor/outdoor spaces to be of high accessibility for all. This practice will benefit society and the economy; more users means more economic growth in our business.

Inclusion for all isn’t rocket science, it just takes a little consideration and respect. Let Scotland lead the way in accessibility for all.

Picture courtesy of Geoff Parsons