When we talk about accessible environments, most people
don't necessarily think how it helps them. Yet, you’d be surprised how often
I’ve found accessibility benefits everyone, not just those with vision loss.
In many parts of England, where I have spent most of my
life, bus stop announcements outside of London are rare. Moving from the UK to Toronto,
I rode the streetcar for the first time and nervously wondered how I would know
when I’d arrived at my stop. Even though I’m sighted, I was so happy when I
realized all the stops are announced! Stops are also displayed at the front of
the streetcar. Both types of announcements were introduced as accessibility
measures, but readily available travel information helps all travelers.
A few years ago I went on a day trip to a busy seaside
town. Once I left the train station, I realized the town had remodeled the
street system. Since I last visited, the street had been turned into a ‘shared
space’, making no distinction between traffic and pedestrian space. I found out
much to my peril when I saw a bus hurtling towards me and dashed to safety! I also
learned local disability advocacy groups were fighting for accessibility
features to be installed there and their campaign was strengthened by voices
from the community; people cared about the safety of everybody in the
In the UK I participated in a site visit to a bank with a
group of campaigners with vision loss. We were invited to test the bank’s new
accessibility features. The bank manager proudly showed us the measures they
had introduced because of customer feedback - including a hook at the side of
the ATM for walking sticks. One man placed his white cane on the holder and
said, “That’s brilliant!”
Accessibility, when done well, benefits everyone. And
I've discovered you can sometimes find it in the most unexpected places.
Kat is a campaigner for equal rights and an advocate for
disability rights. She previously worked on the Campaigns team at RNIB and
recently moved to Canada where she continues her quest to create an accessible
and fair society with CNIB.