How much do you really know about accessibility in the UK? While many of us may be aware that the country falls short in many areas when addressing accessibility, most don’t know the actual impact this has on our disabled population. Accessibility falls short because many of us, from the government to the general population, simply lack the motivation to make serious changes. Usually, this is because of a lack of understanding. Without experiencing the everyday struggle of accessibility first hand, most of us don’t feel the urgency to make significant changes.
A recent study by the Papworth Trust looks at disability in the UK and presents some surprising accessibility facts and figures about the lives of our disabled population. Looking at everything from education to housing, the report gives some insight into what it’s like living with a disability in the UK today. If like many of us, you often let accessibility slip to the back of your mind, then these stats might help you start taking accessibility more seriously.
Here are some of our key takeaways from the report, and you can read the whole thing here.
From giving us a sense of purpose to financing everything from food and housing to leisure and entertainment, employment is an important part of our lives and the backbone of our economy. Despite being so integral to our everyday lives, accessible employment is still a long way off from where it should be.
Today’s disabled population is twice as likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people with an unemployment rate of 9% compared to just 3.8%. With disabled people needing to apply for 60% more jobs than non-disabled jobseekers before finding work it’s no surprise that 9 in 10 disabled people who are not in work are economically inactive and not actively looking for a job. For those that are actively seeking employment, only 51% of disabled applicants can expect to get an interview compared to 69% of non-disabled applicants.
Unemployment on this scale is just as bad for our economy as it is for the lives of our disabled population. While they have less to spend on leisure and entertainment, businesses miss out on the ‘purple pound’. This is the economic value of our disabled population which was estimated at £249 billion last year and looks set to increase along with the number of people living with a disability, but only if we can make improvements and reduce the 45.9% of disabled people who are currently economically inactive. Read our guide to workplace accessibility and find out how you can make simple yet effective changes that could benefit your business as well as help our disabled population.
For the millions in our disabled population who are unable to drive, transportation can be considered a lifeline. While driving is the most popular singular mode of transport with 38% of people with mobility difficulties using this method, being a passenger, walking, bus and other transports are used by the remaining 62%. Trains, buses and taxis provide essential independence to disabled people and enables them to access support, leisure, work and much more. Unfortunately, many of our transportation networks still lack the facilities and aids that disabled people need for their journeys.
In London alone transportation needs to see significant improvements. Although renewed urgency over the past few years has seen the number of accessible Tube stations increase to more than 25% with more than 50% of Overground stations now accessible, there are now cities across the globe aiming for and achieving better accessibility including Washington D.C, which now has a completely accessible metro system.
In the UK as a whole, 75% of trains are now considered accessible to disabled people, but this is a rise of just 5% on the previous year compared to the 7.7% increase of disabled railcards in circulation. As our disabled population grows, significant action will need to be taken to ensure accessibility keeps up. Fortunately, UK buses seem to be leading the way. 94% of them were issued with an accessibility certificate in 2016 and new legislation means equipment such as disabled ramps should be standard issue, while drivers are encouraged to assist disabled people whenever possible.
Business and leisure
Getting there is one thing, but what about accessing businesses and services around the country? Many disabled people experience difficulties accessing public, commercial and leisure goods services every day, from the physical environment to accessing information. Just like employment, this can negatively impact for the whole community as well as the economy in general. If our disabled population can’t access services and activities, then local businesses can’t access the increasingly powerful purple pound.
Accessibility barriers are widespread with many disabled people reporting difficulties when shopping (20%), going to the cinema or theatre (15%) and pubs or restaurants (14%). In fact, 72% of disabled adults have experienced at least one barrier when playing sport and 68% when visiting museums. Unsurprisingly, 22% of disabled adults report having little choice over their free time compared to 13% of non-disabled people. Common barriers reported by disabled people include narrow stairs, doors or corridors (44%), inadequate lifts or escalators (23%), difficulty due to a lack of ramps or handrails (22%) and parking problems (21%).
By law, businesses and public services have a responsibility to make reasonable adjustments to the building or their services to make sure they are accessible to everyone. This can usually be done relatively easily by planning out a better route or floorplan for disabled people by rearranging your current set-up or investing in inexpensive temporary wheelchair ramps that can be quickly set up or removed and stored when necessary. Accessibility doesn’t have to be costly or time-consuming and the solutions shouldn’t have to get in the way of your regular operations.
Accessibility for everyone
When thinking about accessibility don’t forget the millions in the UK living with a hearing or sight impairment or learning disability. As well as adjusting the physical environment, you can make your workplace or business more accessible by investing in aids for all disabilities. This could including hearing loops, braille, larger text documents and much more. An ageing population means that the number of people living with hearing or sight loss is expected to increase over the next few years, making it more important than ever to address accessibility.
If you want to know more about what its like living with a disability today, you can read the full Papworth Trust report for further stats.