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Misunderstanding Blue Badge Style?

Opinion on Stiletto Wheels Blog

This is a response to Fiona, from Blue Badge Style, who left the following comment on my blog from last week, Good wheelchair access … ?:

I’m rather upset at your condemnation of our work regarding rating places on style & accessibility. The whole point of BBS is that we look for stylish places first and then rate them on access & facilities. Sometimes to go out with friends I do have to compromise to have a good time. The Ticks are all about telling you what to expect! We want to encourage places to look at access, we try not to bully rather persuade through praise when things are good. I believe if you take time to read the reviews you will see the tone of what we are about.

Other people such as Inclusion London &GB give information on access that you can view but they do not concentrate on stylish places. Please give me a call and we can discuss.

Dear Fiona,

Not having the intention to be specifically critical in my piece, I am happy to apologise, to you and anyone else, at any offence taken. In no way were my comments meant to be condemnatory of any singular site or individual’s proactive efforts to improve inclusion for us all.

However, my specific point, addressed to any relevant review site with an accessibility rating system for those of us in wheelchairs, was to ask that if a venue has no actual physical wheelchair access, how is it possible to award it a top or near top review rating for access?

I requested that top ratings from such sites not be given to venues with no actual wheelchair access.  Not an unreasonable plea, to my mind and yet, it would seem not a view accepted by you.  I am surprised by this difference of opinion.

Whilst I acknowledge your points about praise and style issues – I noted in my original blog that compromise is sometimes necessary for wheelchair users to access venues – I ask again, objectively, does being carried in/out of a venue or up/down to a toilet represent good, praiseworthy, access?

If so, presumably, it would be approved under Health and Safety regulations, incorporated into DDA legislation and all risks would be comfortably covered by insurers. This is not so and for good reason.

Awarding good or excellent ratings to venues for whom lifting and carrying is the only means of access is, to my mind, misleading for the venue and for those of us looking for great accessible places to go.

The venue imagines they are being given a seal of disability approval from a reputable access review site; that what they are doing is an acceptable manner in which to provide access.

This is just wrong and, addressing your site amongst others,  I fail to see how a review site that purports to represent those of us with blue badges and access issues is able to justify doing this.  No actual physical access – even if an option is offered to be carried in and out with no problem, style oozes from the venue’s pores, they were incredibly nice and a truly fabulous time was had, anecdotally – is not good access.

It is not bullying, petty or lacking in willingness to compromise to point out the failings in access to a venue that has none, or very poor access facilities, when you review it. It is in fact your responsibility to do so if you set yourself up as any kind of expert on access – as is the case on Blue Badge Style, and others, who invite businesses to use their access expertise.

Users who look to access review sites – many of us blue badge holders visiting your site Blue Badge Style – might feel, as I do, slightly irritated when top ratings are given to sites that are not accessible.

Apart from the legalities and safety issues, some of us cannot be carried in our chairs. Not being reviewers, maybe we are not treated quite as nicely as a reviewer might be. Nice, happy, strong staff may no longer be there/on duty the day we go or, more likely, we don’t want to be the centre of attention just getting in/out of a venue or going to the toilet.

To my mind, access that is entirely dependent on the physical strength and good will of others is not good enough access …  and I expect reviewers of access to say that. It’s a fact not an emotional issue.  It’s not being nasty to say it.  Sure, be nice, be reasonable about your visit, recommend it on a ‘subject to’ basis but don’t shirk the facts and let a venue think it is okay or that you formally approve it.  It is not safe, reliable, insurable or legal to be carried in a wheelchair.  I am unsure how any reviewer might think it is even if they do it at their own risk.

On a final point, like most wheelchair users, I am well used to researching before venturing anywhere on my wheels, but I find your suggestion that blue badge holders look elsewhere for good access information odd as I would expect to find it  on a site named Blue Badge Style.

I thought Blue Badge Style was in the business of assessing and promoting good accessible blue badge style for all of us.  Promoting venues with no safe physical access as good or excellent is not consistent with that objective.  If you disagree, then you may be right and I have misunderstood what your site is about.

Having said all that, Fiona, thank you for commenting.  It is clear we have a shared passion for our topic albeit with differing opinions.  But, I can live with that.  Life would be far less interesting if we all thought the same way.  Your views are aways welcome here.

I shall be continuing to list, and encourage readers to visit, Blue Badge Style on my blog.  All the best,

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