It’s that time of year when courageous mappers embrace the cold and head out to celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disability! Yesterday, Mapping for Change joined forces with Health and Social Care students from London South Bank University for a voyage of accessibility discovery around Waterloo.
The session began with a serious of insightful talks from wheelchair users. The speakers gave their perspectives on daily issues with accessibility – from people misusing accessible toilets, to trouble boarding buses. Students were asked
to reflect on these accounts – many confessed to having used accessible toilets in the past! However, hearing the daily experiences of wheelchair users gave students a real insight into how their behaviour can compound people’s problems with accessibility. Many commented that the speakers had opened their eyes, and that hearing first hand accounts had given them a much clearer perspective.
Next came the mapping! After some mince pies and coffee, we headed out in teams of 8 to collect information on wheelchair accessibility in the area, predominantly using Wheelmap. Students took different roles in the groups – some taking photographs of barriers in the environment, some speaking to restaurant and shop staff about accessibility, and others venturing inside venues to assess their levels of accessibility for wheelchairs. Some really positive discussions were had with restaurant staff – several of which were keen to point out their immaculate accessible bathrooms with pride!
When we arrived at Waterloo, we heard about improvements taking place around the station to make it a more accessible environment. Members of the station staff explained that signage had been flagged as a problem (partly from us after last year’s UN Enable outing!), so new enlarged and interactive signs were due to be installed around the station from January of 2016.
People speaking about accessibility problems in a classroom setting is one thing, but actually getting out and about and experiencing them first hand is another. Many students commented that the excursions had made them think about accessibility from a totally new perspective, and realise how much they had previously taken for granted.
This activity was part of MapMyDay, an international social event for accessibility that will officially commence on December 3rd! People across the world are invited to download Wheelmap, and map the access levels of three places they visit that day. MapMyDay is something that’s easy and fun to get involved with – and has the potential to make a massive impact across the world. Students and staff were invited to join the event and spread the word.
We would like to thank Peter Gichura for inviting us along to the workshop, and all of the wonderful South Bank staff and students for participating.