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Disabled people in Britain still face access problems in thousands of high street venues up and down the country. In a recent government audit, accessibility information providers DisabledGo visited more than thirty thousand shops and restaurants to assess them in person, and the results are somewhat shocking.

  • A fifth of all shops surveyed had no wheelchair access
  • 85% of all shops and restaurants surveyed did not provide hearing loops
  • 75% of restaurants surveyed failed to cater to the visually impaired
  • Less than a third of all department stores had accessible changing rooms
  • Two thirds of retail staff were not trained to assist disabled customers
  • 40% of restaurants and a third of department stores had no accessible toilets

In addition, the surveyors asked 105 leading national retail chains directly for further information. Only 4% responded.

For many disabled people, the results are unsurprising. Although there are regulations which demand that disabled access be considered in the design of new buildings, as well as existing ones which are undergoing an extension, alteration or change of use, many buildings have never been refitted for access. In some cases, only a nominal effort has been made – for example, fitting disabled toilets in a building with no wheelchair access, or even placing a sign in the window advising disabled people to ask inside for access on the assumption that they’ll be accompanied by an able-bodied person who can do so.

Following the audit, BBC News highlighted the daily experiences of disabled people on the high street. John from Derby pointed out that the menswear department of many stores is on the first floor – and an offer to fetch items down for customers like him is not particularly helpful because they don’t know what exactly the shop stocks without seeing it. Another correspondent pointed out that some businesses are theoretically accessible, but still highly inconvenient for power chair users.

With an estimated spending power of £200bn in the hands of disabled people, many high street venues may be missing out on vital revenue, and here at Axess 2 we can offer practical, cost-efficient solutions for a wide range of properties and uses – even in places where you may not think a lift could be practical. From step/incline access to platform lifts, we have versatile and affordable solutions to help you comply with disability access regulations in more than just theory – simply get in touch with us on 01200 405005 for more information.