Access Survey Insights - Dr Elizabeth Ferris BEM
We hear from Dr Elizabeth Ferris on how access has changed due to the pandemic and her thoughts on accessible sport. Elizabeth spoke to us and gave insight into the the 2021 Euan’s Guide Access Survey supported by Motability Operations which ran in Autumn 2021. Over 2400 disabled people and their friends, families and carers took part.
Do you think access has improved or decreased due to the pandemic?
I feel it has decreased for sure. Everywhere we look pavements are being used for outside dining and parking spaces are being re-commissioned to increase capacity of stores & restaurants. All these changes have occurred for obvious reasons but they’ve happened without thought for the needs of disabled people. The loss of such precious resources has a huge impact on how wheelchair users interact with their local towns and cities, making it harder and in some cases totally impossible.
Sport is an important contributor to well-being and we wonder if you feel enough is being done to promote accessible sport?
Accessible Sport is a wonderful tool to improve physical and mental health, but one really needs to know where to look in order to find it! As chairperson of a Wheelchair Sports Club I know that if you type “wheelchair sport” and our city’s name into Google, you’ll find us, but if you’re not looking for us I will have a hard time reaching you! It’s vitally important therefore that local councils, education and health service providers are able to signpost individuals to resources near them - that only comes with greater collaborative working between these providers and a huge first step would be to ensure people know “accessible” doesn’t necessarily mean “full time wheelchair user”!
Wheelchair users have described the landscape as having change due to Covid regulations what do you think has been the worst impact?
It seems that access needs - in fact let me rephrase that - access regulations have been thrown to the wind in the name of expediency and revenue due to the pandemic. Previously shops, restaurants and entertainment venues in general tried to do the right thing when it came to access. They didn’t always get it right of course, but by and large it seemed they at least were trying. The perception now though is the pandemic has changed all that. It’s tougher than ever to make a pound so if cutting corners on accessibility is a casualty then so be it. That’s how it feels from a wheelchair user’s point of view and so the worst impact is feeling like we don’t matter. We’re just an “extra” that it’s nice to help only when the circumstances are right, rather than being an equal.
Everyone seems to be talking about returning back to normal do you see this happening for disabled people?
No, definitely not. In some ways that’s good though; “normal” previously was to never really have access to Work From Home opportunities and now employers can’t make those same arguments as they might have prior to the pandemic; that can only be a positive thing for disabled people! But when it comes to using public transport, spending time in crowded areas and interacting with the social landscape around us now, that will always be different now than it was pre-pandemic, and it feels like those differences will disproportionately affect disabled people.
Dr Elizabeth Ferris BEM is a full-time wheelchair user as a result of a Spinal Cord Injury. Founder and Chairperson of the Dundee Dragon Wheelchair Sports Club and a Junior Doctor in NHS Tayside. You can follow them on twitter @LizzyFerret
For full results and to download the report of the Euan's Guide Access Survey supported by Motability Operations, please visit www.EuansGuide.com/AccessSurvey