Access Survey Insights - Paul Ralph FRSA

Graphic with photo inset of Paul Ralph and text "Paul Ralph FRSA #AccessSurvey"

We hear from Paul Ralph FRSA, Access and Inclusion Director at Euan’s Guide. He reflects how the survey gave insight into the experiences and feelings of disabled people since the start of the pandemic. The 2021 Euan’s Guide Access Survey supported by Motability Operations ran in Autumn 2021 with results published in March 2022. Over 2400 disabled people and their friends, families and carers took part. 

The survey, the largest in the UK, provided a snapshot of the experiences and feelings of disabled people across the nation. It gave an insight into how the pandemic has reached so deeply into the lives of disabled people.
With that thought, I must take a moment to reflect on the number of disabled people who have been, and continue to be, at greater risk from coronavirus than the general population and those who lost their lives to this terrible virus. Their experiences are in the forefront of my mind as I comment on the findings of the Euan’s Guide Access Survey 2021.

Having spent the best part of two years staying away from people, places and spaces, I know how difficult the experience of greater isolation has been for so many. The feelings of being ignored, last on the list or abandoned still haunt me and will remain in the minds of many people.

The pandemic years have been a time of doing things differently and learning new things and abandoning some of the old. Two years of not ironing a shirt was fabulous!

My new-found friend, social media, brought me news, not always true, some new friends and a gateway to the outside world. In a funny sort of way, it became a companion as people shared the struggles of getting food, working out how to get prescriptions, what to do if PAs (Personal Assistants) could not come to work and so much more.

The anecdotal stories gave me a sense of people’s struggles and fuelled my concerns as social distancing, face coverings, reduced outdoor time, and limited shopping all conspired to fuel a sense of fear and uncertainty. It was little surprise to find the Euan’s Guide Survey confirmed that disabled access has declined; especially as 59% of survey respondents shared that view. 

Talking of the emergency provisions, I’m reminded of the many times these past couple of years when disabled people hunted, and still do, for accessible toilets. Finding their quest shut down as they’re told the disabled toilet is closed because of the pandemic. At other times, we saw them repurposed as toilets for everyone, used for different purposes, or simply airbrushed out of our communities. So much so that 68% of the Survey respondents encountered problems accessing toilets. 

When we got to go out and about, we discovered the world of social distancing and then endless queues everywhere. Disabled parking bays suddenly repurposed as queuing areas, pop up drinking areas, and eateries. So much so that 81% of disabled people reported having to hunt for the elusive blue badge parking bays. 

When we got parked, we often wanted to rest awhile when out walking, but the benches and seats had turned into crimes scenes with endless red and white tape or signage telling us not to stop there. An exhausted and frustrated group of 52% of Survey responded found this made their visits impossible. 

Queues became a big feature of life, but weren’t always the easiest to manage. Long waits, no seating, and social distance rules that weren’t always easy to see, to follow, or to understand. Some 55% of Survey respondents had trouble with queues and queueing systems and 75% struggled with social distancing.

When we did finally get into the places and spaced we’d chosen to visit, the lifts became a new game. Waiting for the lift has always been a hopeful dream as you push all the buttons and wait endlessly for your luck to be in. Now an extra dimension came into play. I guess it’s level two of this new game, as you decide whether you will risk entering the “lift chamber” with unknown characters from your new game. Our Survey participants weren’t too keen on sharing with 53% saying they’d avoid lifts like this. 

It wasn’t going well for people in the new world of coronavirus rules and etiquette, so people sought quieter places, quieter times, and open spaces and places. Indoors places were no longer a fashionable place to be seen. Some 62% of disabled people looked for quieter times and many continue to do so.

When not out and about, we had to work. Yes, some disabled people work too. We realised that some of our old battles, like working from home, were now possible. Zoom and Teams opened opportunities for work, leisure and social activities and many disabled people enjoyed this new world. However, many struggled without the skills, the equipment or the ability to take part in these alternative forms of human interaction.

The one thing that comes out strongly from the Euan’s Guide Survey is the massive change of landscape that everyone has experienced. Landscapes have changed as we have to relearn what’s possible, what places remain accessible, what’s new, and, importantly, what remains accessible. An important point, as 81% of disabled people said they want to know about access before they will make a visit somewhere new.

The challenge now is to encourage businesses, places and spaces to get better at telling people what they have, what they don’t, and what they offer for disabled visitors. Maybe, it’s a great business opportunity too as there are 13 million plus disabled people in the UK?

For full results of the Euan's Guide Access Survey supported by Motability Operations, please visit 



Tags: The Access Survey, covid


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