Reviewer's story: How Alison Hayes became an accessibility review blogger
We spoke to senior lecturer, Alison Hayes, about her passion for writing and travelling which led to the start-up of her blog ‘accessibilityreviews.org’ this summer. Alison tells us about the inspiration behind her blog, and what it’s like to search for accessible places abroad in Europe compared to at home.
What is your website and when did it first begin?
I set up ‘accessibilityreviews.org’ this summer as a review site which talks about the quality of the hotel or venue, but also talks about its accessibility. I have reviewed hotels, restaurants, parks, other websites and also things, my scooter for example! I have also tried to bring in a campaigning angle – I contacted the newspapers and magazines I read to ask them if they could include a mention of access in the same way as they would mention if the place is child or pet friendly. No direct response so far but there does seem to be a move in the media towards at least talking about access a bit more.
What inspired you to begin writing a blog about accessibility?
It’s difficult for a review to be all things to all people. I can’t comment on the acoustics for example, but that is where blogs are so appropriate, as the reviews posted on ‘accessibilityreviews’ are the experience of the reviewer. Readers can hopefully glean from it the information they need and they can always contact me or comment on the review if they would like more information.
You have written about travelling abroad in Europe, what was it like searching for accessible places to go in a foreign country compared to at home?
Some countries seem to be better than others at having information readily available. It does take a while to search places out on the internet and of course some websites are much easier to search – it depends on how they are set up. I wrote a piece on which of the hotel search sites let you search for accessibility features as some have several filters you can apply while others don’t have any!
Our recent holiday in Austria took some planning but was generally a success in terms of access. People were really welcoming and helpful, I found some great websites with access information and the tourist board was happy to send us a load of leaflets on accessible places to visit and things to do. We stayed near Lake Achensee which had a lovely promenade round it – perfect for pushchairs, bikes, rollerblades, segways and of course scooters. However, interestingly, I didn’t see a single other scooter during the entire holiday! No wonder my scooter got some interested looks and someone came up and asked about it as she was interested in getting one for her mother!
Based on your personal experience, what can places do to improve how they provide accessibility information?
A huge factor for me is the staff attitude. You could have marvellous accessibility, but if you feel you are getting stared at or treated as if you are a nuisance – well, you certainly won’t give that place your business again! Other places might not be able to be fully accessible but if the staff have the right attitude it can smooth the way considerably. That said, many places could do so much more – automatic doors, smooth transitions between surfaces, better colour schemes for visually impaired people for example. Things which often are no more expensive than what they have but nobody thought about it when they last redecorated or refurbished.
Can you share with us a few of your favourite accessible venues that you have visited in the past?
I really loved the Parador de La Granja, somewhere we stayed last summer. It is a historic building but restored in such a way that it keeps its character while being accessible. Also, the staff were great. Another thing I love is that you can borrow really sturdy electric scooters in so many places – Thorpe Perrow Arboretum is beautiful as are the parks in the Leeds area which I have visited: Roundhay, Golden Acre, Temple Newsam.
Look out for some of Alison’s reviews on Euan’s Guide, or visit her blog and read stories of her adventures here. If you would like to feature in a Reviewer's Story article, please share your story and pictures with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.