Reviewer Story: Gary's disabled access review journey
‘Horsing around’ at The Household Cavalry Museum, ‘a rail fab day out’ at the National Railway Museum, and ‘a close shave’ at Istanbul Barbers – these are just some of our favourite puns used by reviewer Gary in his disabled access reviews! One of our most prolific contributors and our Reviewer of the Year in 2014, we caught up with Gary to learn a little more about his journey with reviewing.
Where are the kinds of places you like to review?
I enjoy reviewing anywhere, although I do enjoy museums and tourist attractions. But to be honest, I just love finding new places I would think are not really accessible, whether it be a small local shop, a country walk (as I love being outdoors), tourist attractions, pubs and restaurants and finding things I ‘CAN DO’.
What made you start reviewing on Euan’s Guide?
I met Paul Ralph for the first time and I had just been made medically retired from work, where I had been from the day I left school. Unknown to Paul, I had been thinking, to give me an interest and to help other people in a similar situation to myself, that I would set up a website listing accessible venues and do reviews of them.
Then, Paul proceeded to tell me about Euan's Guide. After listening to him I knew this would be something I would love to get involved in and help in any small way I could. It was better me helping Euan's Guide with reviews than starting my own website as a hobby. After all, I had little or no knowledge about how to start my project. And anyway, we are all looking at the same goal of just wanting to let others know where they may be able to go and letting people enjoy their life with a little less worry of "am I going to be able to get in here?", "is there an accessible toilet?". Just basic things that the majority of the population don't have to even think about when venturing out.
Can you tell us about a place that surprised you with its accessibility?
There are so many that have surprised me, but one of the more recent gems was New Lanark. It's an old mill that has its own self-contained ‘village’ and gives you an experience of what it was like to live and work there. Being on many different levels, there were ramps and lifts to get you to all areas as well as automatic doors. The staff at the ticket desk explained fully the most accessible ways to get to each of the different buildings, and also phoned ahead to let them know we would be on our way so that each building that needed a temporary ramp to gain access already had it in place for our arrival. Well worth a visit!
You have reviewed a variety of sports venues on Euan’s Guide – football stadiums, a velodrome, golfing academies…What do you think sports venues can do to become more accessible?
I think sports venues, as with other facilities, should have Changing Places Toilets. I am fortunate enough that I don't need them myself, but these places could open themselves up to so many more customers/supporters if they put in a Changing Places Toilet. These are larger toilets that have a changing bed, hoist track system for transferring people from wheelchairs to the toilet etc. There are so many folk out there that need this but are unable to get out and enjoy watching sports or whatever they want to see just because they are unable access a suitable toilet. To me this is so wrong!
Also, some stadiums seem to think it acceptable having the disabled section stuck in a little corner somewhere with terrible sight lines. I would like to see more thought put into the placement of these areas and consulting disabled people themselves as to what they require.
What makes a venue 5 star for you?
I must admit I'm pretty picky about giving 5 star review so haven't given many. For me it would have to be a place with excellent accessibility, facilities and staff that are friendly and helpful.
What is the next Euan’s Guide badge you’d like to collect?
Not sure to be honest! Just keep reviewing and get a surprise as to what I get next!
You took part in Disabled Access Day in London last year. Where impressed you the most and why?
Yet another tough question! I went down to London for Disabled Access Day as the main objective is to try and get people out going to different places and experiencing new things so that's exactly what I tried to do. I spent a couple of days visiting as many venues that were actively promoting Disabled Access Day that I could, knowing that they must be proud of their accessibility, and was really impressed at what these venues were doing.
The Houses of Parliament and St. Paul's Cathedral both being historic buildings surprised me as I was able to access most areas, and they had put lots of effort into promoting Disabled Access Day. Also, the National Theatre providing events with BSL interpreters and their tactile model of the stage where visually impaired people could feel where all the props would be on stage and the materials they were made of for a play.
Finally, what would be your advice to first-time reviewers on Euan’s Guide?
Get out there and do it! The more reviews we can have on Euan's Guide the more we can help disabled people enjoy different places. There's a big world out there to explore, and although we know accessibility isn't perfect, and I know there are places that are not accessible, venues are trying to be more accessible and I like to focus on the positive and know where I CAN access.
For me Euan's Guide gives honest reviews and for the right reason...to enable disabled people to make an informed decision of where they can go. The more places we have on there the more we can get out there and hopefully, with the help of Euan's Guide, other venues will start seeing the benefits of making themselves more accessible.