New access guide to Portsmouth City is Go!

Work is complete and the first Portsmouth wide 1,000 venue disabled access guide, designed to help make it easier for disabled people to get around the city has launched.

Portsmouth City Council is working in partnership with DisabledGo and has produced a 1000 venue access guide to the area. Each venue has been surveyed in person by trained surveyors, working with local disabled people who have been employed by DisabledGo specifically for the project.

The team have collated detailed information on a wide range of buildings and venues from across the city, including shops, banks, restaurants, council buildings, public transport, and tourist attractions.

The guide officially went live on DisabledGo website www.disabledgo.com on Wednesday 14th November 2012 and an official launch took place at the Lord Mayor Banqueting Suite, Portsmouth City Council.

The new guide will enable people to find out not only whether venues have adapted toilets or parking close by, but also specific details such as whether there are tactile or Braille markings in lifts or on doors, the dimensions of toilets, the positioning of fixtures and fittings and whether they can request information in large print or Braille.

Cllr Leo Madden, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, said:

“We are pleased to be working with DisabledGo on this new guide, which brings together the information disabled people need to get around the city. The guide will give details about how accessible around a thousand venues and buildings in Portsmouth are for disabled people. As the places in the guide have been visited by disabled people working with surveyors from DisabledGo, we know the information is right.”

The DisabledGo-Portsmouth guide will also be available on the ‘Looking Local’ service, accessed through the red button on digital television. This means those without access to the internet will still be able get the information they need.

If you would like more information about the DisabledGo-Portsmouth City guide please contact Rachel Felton, External Relations Manager at DisabledGo by email rachel.felton@disabledgo.com or call 01438 842710.

DisabledGo wins Business Innovation Award

On Friday 19th October the Bedfordshire Race and Equalities Council crowned DisabledGo winners of the 2012 Business Innovation Award.

Shortlisted organisations had to demonstrate how they had improved equality and diversity awareness and mainstreamed practices into a business model.

Over the last 2 years DisabledGo has launched its access guide initiative in areas across the Eastern Region; including Central Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes and Suffolk.

The information produced has enabled local residents and visitors to make informed choices about the services and venues they want to access. The benefits have been wide ranging, from people being better informed when spending personal care budgets to feeling confident when planning a weekend away in the region.

Beyond this, the initiative has given people the opportunity to actively shape their local service through consultation and gain new skills through DisabledGo’s temporary employment programme.

Central Bedfordshire was the first local authorities to commission DisabledGo in the Eastern Region, speaking ahead of the awards Clare Harding, Equality and Diversity Manager at Central Bedfordshire Council said;

“Unlike many organisations, DisabledGo live up to all the commitments they make – they do exactly what they say will they do.  Their approach is innovative and positively promotes equality of opportunity by raising awareness of access needs and fostering a culture which encourages improvement.  They have breathed new life into the way we address access issues.”

Speaking after the event, Chris Spratling, Chief Executive at DisabledGo said;

“Our mission is to break down the barriers disabled people face and promote independence and choice. By working in partnership with Central Bedfordshire Council, Milton Keynes Council and Suffolk County Council we have been able to positively impact on the lives of residents and visitors. We are very proud to have won the Business Innovation Award and I would like to thank all the local disability organisations involved and each authority. I hope the Award will promote our work further in the region and encourage other councils to get involved.”

Conservative conference: Alarm as Osborne announces new £10bn welfare cuts

The chancellor has sparked an angry reaction after pledging to make another £10 billion worth of benefit cuts in the first year after the next general election.

George Osborne made the promise – later backed by work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith – in a speech to the annual Conservative party conference in Birmingham.

The promised cuts to welfare spending will come on top of reductions of £18 billion during the five years of the current parliament.

Neil Coyle, director of policy and campaigns for Disability Rights UK, said: “We never saw a full impact assessment for the last set of cuts and how they will affect disabled people.

“Most of those measures have not been implemented and yet the government is already looking to cut more from disadvantaged groups, including disabled people.”

He said he believed the government would find some of the £10 billion in cuts by extending personal independence payment – the planned replacement for working-age disability living allowance – to older people.

John McArdle, a founding member of the grassroots disabled people’s organisation Black Triangle, said the organisation was hearing “heart-breaking” stories every day about disabled people “living in absolute fear and dread” because of cuts to benefits and other support.

He said: “What more is there to cut? People are already dying from neglect because of these cuts. If you cut more, more people will die.”

Stephen Lloyd, the disabled Liberal Democrat MP, said he was “very disappointed” that Duncan Smith had failed to “see off the Treasury’s push on further cuts to welfare reform”.

Lloyd told Disability News Service only two weeks ago that he believed Duncan Smith would “fight tooth and nail to resists further cuts to welfare”.

But in this week’s speech, Duncan Smith said the government would “have to make further savings in the welfare budget” and again warned that support for disabled people would go to “those who have genuine need”.

Lloyd said: “My take was that he stayed at the DWP so that the chancellor wouldn’t get the cuts he wanted.

“This may have been the case to an extent but I am not happy with the proposed £10 billion further reductions and will seek more detail on my return to Westminster.”

Adrian Berrill-Cox, a disabled barrister who stood for the Conservatives for the seat of Islington North at the last general election, said any cuts should be “carefully considered and well targeted to the areas where they will do the least harm so benefits can be maintained in areas where they do the most good”.

He said the benefits bill had “risen sharply” over the last 15 years and that “in some places is going to places where it is not that needed and is not reaching other places where it is needed”.

He added: “I don’t think there is much flesh on the bone in disability benefits. I hope that is an area that is not hit as hard as others. Disabled people have life quite tough enough as it is.”

He suggested that the chancellor might introduce means-testing of disability living allowance (DLA).

He said: “I need DLA for my care. I do have additional expenses so I am glad I receive the mobility component.

“But given how tough so many other people’s lives are, whether somebody in my position can make a case for keeping it where there are pressing requirements for government expenditure is another matter.”

He said it would hurt if he lost his higher rate mobility component of DLA – at more than £50 a week – but if somebody else lost that money “they would be housebound”.

He added: “I am being given a financial contribution to my mobility from the taxes of people who earn a quarter of what I do. There are people who need that money more than I do.

“It would be lovely if we could afford to indemnify every disabled person against all the costs they suffer as a consequence of their disability. Our deficit tells us that that is not the world we live in.”

Meanwhile, a Treasury spokeswoman has stressed that new plans to allow workers to swap some employment rights for shares in the company they work for would not result in an assault on discrimination laws.

She said the plans – announced by Osborne – would see the new “employee-owners” give up rights on unfair dismissal, redundancy, and the right to request flexible working and time off for training, but would not affect legal protection from discrimination at work.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission declined to comment because it has “not seen any formal proposals”.

11 October 2012

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

West Cheshire College first to commission innovative Equality and Diversity training

West Cheshire College are leading the way across the region with a new approach to the delivery of equality and diversity training.

Working in partnership with disability and equality organisation DisabledGo the College will be rolling out a comprehensive equality and diversity course to its entire team.  Uniquely, the training will also be offered to the College’s students giving them the opportunity to increase their skills and confidence, whether they are continuing their studies or entering the workplace.

Speaking about the training Nicky Lees, Human Resources and Development Manager at West Cheshire College said, “We are delighted to be working with Disabled Go once again and this particular training will continue to develop colleagues understanding and insight into disability and equality in order to ensure we maintain our position as an inclusive college. The offer to relevant students will ensure that they will enter the workplace with a sound knowledge and understanding of the issues and are fully prepared ”

The training covers all 9 protected characteristics introduced by the Equality Act in 2010 and gives practical advice around appropriate behaviour and language. The training, which was developed in partnership with a pilot group of public sector organisations launched in March 2011. To date the training has been completed by over 14,000 people gaining praise from organisations and learners alike.

Speaking about the partnership Anna Borthwick, Head of Business Development at DisabledGo said, “We are thrilled to be working with West Cheshire College on this initiative, it is a fantastic college with an excellent reputation. The college is committed to equality and it was clear from the start that they were keen to lead the way in the North West.”

For more information about DisabledGo and the online training it provides please contact Rachel Felton, External Relations Manager, DisabledGo, E: rachel.felton@disabledgo.com or T: 01438 842710

DisabledGo’s latest access guide launches in Hastings!

Hastings Borough Council are the latest council to work in partnership with DisabledGo to provide a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to know more about disabled access across Hastings and St Leonards.

The guide, launched on Wednesday 22nd August thanks to Hastings Borough Council and the Access For All Group covers over 500 venues across the area.

DisabledGo surveyors have visited every venue featured in the guide collecting information to a set standard, developed in conjunction with disabled people. The guide details accessibility to buildings and venues across the borough giving specific information such as the height of table’s dimensions of toilets or the positioning of fixtures and fittings.

Cllr Kramer Lead member for equalities said:

“The access guide should make a significant difference to disabled people who are visiting, living or working here. It means people can make informed decisions on where they want to go which is a major equalities issue.”

“The website is free to use and you don’t need to register. You can find detailed information about access to all kinds of places including cinemas, hotels, hospitals, colleges, sports grounds, restaurants, council offices, parks, tourist attractions, in fact the list goes on and on!”

Rosemary Iddenden, Chairman Hastings Disability Forum said:

“This is a major step forward to giving disabled people the opportunity to decide prior to going out whether the level of access that is available at their chosen destination will meet their needs”.

The online guide will provide benefits for business too, helping them reach more customers by publicising the access they offer. All businesses that take part also receive Disability Awareness Manuals, designed as a 20 minute introduction to disability and access.

The website www.disabledgo.com not only gives information on access but it can also be used to find a job, catch up on the latest disability news, advertise events, post articles and join discussions on the forum.

Coventry launches access guide to the City in time for the Games!

Coventry is the latest city to join online access guide www.disabledgo.com providing a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to know more about access to the City during the Games.

The guide to Coventry covers over 1000 venues including – The City of Coventry Stadium where they will be hosting the football during the Olympics. The guide also covers everything from cinemas, hotels, parks and leisure centres to council offices, high street stores, restaurants and tourist attractions.

The guide, which launched on Tuesday 17th July 2012 will enable residents and visitors to find out whether venues have accessible toilets or parking close by but also specific details such as whether there are tactile or Braille markings in lifts or on doors, the dimensions of toilets, the positioning of fixtures and fittings and whether you can request large print or Braille information.

DisabledGo have been working in partnership with Coventry City Council to produce the guide and have employed local disabled people to work as part of the surveying team. The local surveyors have been trained and employed by DisabledGo especially for this project.

Speaking about the guide local surveyor Robert Wright said;

“The DisabledGo online guides help disabled people along the long and difficult journey towards optimum independence.  Optimum independence means being able to go to a shop, a restaurant, a cinema or a public building in the knowledge that you can do your business as easily as the rest of the population.  The sooner the guides cover the whole of the UK the better.

Identifying access issues is in itself a valuable service for disabled people.  Equally important is the effect of the surveys for the guides in raising awareness of the needs of disabled people.”

All of the information provided on DisabledGo-Coventry will also be available on the ‘Looking Local’ service on the red button on your TV, so if you don’t have access to a computer at home you can still get the information you need.

To view the guide, please go to http://www.disabledgo.com/en/org/city-of-coventry we would love to hear what you think.

If you would like more information about DisabledGo please contact Dean Eales, Partnership Administrator (E: dean.eales@disabledgo.com T: 01438 842710).

Winners of the VisitEngland Access For All Award 2012 announced!

The Great North Museum: Hancock and The Leicester Theatre Trust scoop Gold.

The Great North Museum: Hancock and The Leicester Theatre Trust have both won Gold in the Access for All category of the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2012.  The coveted accolade was one of 19 presented at a glittering ceremony hosted by the national tourist board at the art-deco Athena in Leicester, on 22 May. These prestigious awards, currently in their 23rd year, promote excellence in England’s tourism industry and celebrate the very best the country has to offer.

Leicester Theatre Trust

A key category in the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence, The Access For All Tourism Award, recognises businesses that provide exceptional access for all visitors and was sponsored by DisabledGo. Presenting the awards was DisabledGo’s Head of Business Development, Anna Borthwick.

Gold winner, The Leicester Theatre Trust demonstrates a strong and on-going commitment to accessibility.  The spring/summer diary sees 7 assisted performances at The Curve theatre, where touch tours, care for assistance dogs and audio guides are just some of the services provided. The Great North Museum: Hancock equally impressed the judges with a ‘never finished’ attitude towards providing exceptional accessibility through regular input from disabled groups. The museum’s redevelopment has allowed for excellent physical access and a strong commitment to the needs of hearing and visually impaired visitors was evident.

The University of Leeds, which provides accommodation to guests during the summer vacation, was awarded Bronze.  Storm Jameson Court has recently been awarded ‘Access Exceptional’ under the National Accessible Scheme, and is also hosting the Canadian Paralympic Rugby Team. It has 23 new fully accessible rooms, and provides an ideal base to explore the buzzing city of Leeds or the surrounding countryside.

Three businesses were Highly Commended on the night. The UK’s largest indoor waterpark, Sandcastle Waterpark, created a splash with excellent testimonials and facilities including a new wet changing room with sensory equipment & hoist tracking system and pool accessible wheelchairs. The Beacon Museum impressed judges with comprehensive disability awareness training, strong information provision with various alternative formats and a good website.  The homely Abbey Guest House in Oxfordshire provides an impressive range of accessibility equipment and an excellent website including a detailed Accessibility section.

Great North Museum: Hancock

Other awards announced at the ceremony in Leicester included the best bed and breakfast in England, best small hotel, best tourism experience, Taste of England, sustainable tourism award and caravan holiday park of the year.  The 34 Gold and Silver winners were selected from a shortlist of 69 finalists, judged by a panel of tourism industry experts including VisitEngland Board Member David Orr and travel broadcaster Alison Rice.

VisitEngland’s Chief Executive, James Berresford, commented:
“The VisitEngland Awards for Excellence represent the highest accolade in English tourism. They champion the very best quality, and continue to help to raise standards across the industry, establishing England’s place as a world-class destination and a thoroughly fantastic place to visit. This year’s awards were the biggest ever, with a record number of almost 400 entrants from across the country. All our finalists are to be warmly congratulated for their success – particularly our Gold Award winners, whose passion and commitment to excellence is outstanding.”