Form follows function
Thank you for the kind and positive comments about our new-look website. It’s great to get feedback and even nicer to know that our site comes across as fresh, streamlined, dynamic and modern. What’s particularly pleasing is that people feel the film on the homepage, and the one explaining the impact our access films have, work well. They do what they need to do – get the message across – and look good too!
As a company we are quite obsessed with these two elements – function and form – and love it when designers and architects create buildings, locations and experiences that work for everyone and look amazing too. Universal design was one of the talking points at the recent Blue Badge Style Awards. It’s great to see that so many new builds are incorporating sound access principles into their designs from the outset, so that the majority of us are automatically catered for. And what’s more, without the need for clunky, hastily assembled, last-minute add-ons, buildings, hotels and restaurants can look stylish and beautiful as well as being effortlessly accessible.
When we first started making access films, this was absolutely not the case. Many places had rather an apologetic, almost embarrassed approach to their access provision – even if it was quite good. This was particularly true of high end venues. In those days, we even had a sneaky suspicion that it might have been because they didn’t want to be seen to be actively attracting disabled customers – that disability wasn’t cool. No hard evidence to back up this suspicion, it was just an impression gained…
But fast forward to now and it’s starting to feel a bit different. I saw a headline in The Independent the other day proclaiming that the world’s most beautiful restaurant was in fact in London: https://www.indy100.com/article/the-most-beautiful-restaurant-in-the-world-is-in-london-7353076.
It was quite a claim, so I took a look. They were referring to German Gymnasium, a relatively new up-market restaurant that has opened in the rejuvenated Kings Cross area in what was once England’s first purpose-built gym.
And that struck a chord. The previous evening I had been along to Fiona Jarvis’ Blue Badge Style Awards event, hosted by Mik Scarlet. And that very same venue, the “most beautiful restaurant in the world”, had won not one but two awards – for Best High End Restaurant and Best Loo. It is indeed a very gorgeous environment and worthy of great accolade.
Whether it is the most beautiful restaurant in the entire world may be debatable, but the fact it does physical accessibility rather beautifully is not.
Now German Gymnasium is great if you can afford to splash out on a swanky meal, but what about if you’re looking for a quick bite on the high street?
Luckily there is growing evidence that some food outlets are beginning to embrace access ever more effectively. In our own not-very-scientific studies, McDonald’s comes pretty high on the list of ‘establishments with reliably accessible facilities’. In fact, at a recent studio shoot there was a plumbing hitch with the accessible loo and the team automatically went online in search of the nearest golden arches.
But let’s not get carried away. On the downside we know there are still plenty of inaccessible restaurants and regular shops out there. Will Pike is trying to change this and has kicked off his campaign with a film highlighting the inaccessibility of a couple of high street chains (Café Nero and American Apparel) in the centre of London. You can watch his film and join the campaign here: https://www.change.org/p/cafe-nero-american-apparel-stop-segregating-disabled-people
Levels of accessibility clearly vary considerably, but I’d like to think the access argument is starting to win, with smart companies realising that inclusivity is good for business. Every time I see a new entry in Euan’s Guide, for example, I know things are changing for the better. Let’s keep the pressure on, call out the bad, celebrate the good and create unstoppable momentum for change.
On the GF team’s radar:
- The DWord2 conference took place this week. It’s specifically aimed at making sports media more inclusive in front of and behind the scenes. Although it was sponsored by BCOMS (Black Collective of Media in Sport) the agenda was really broad and tackled representation of women, LGBT, social background and disability. Andy Stevenson, Commissioning Executive, Paralympics Channel 4, said that while the emphasis was quite rightly on getting broadcasters to step up their efforts to include and represent disabled people, there was a massive need for Government to do more to support disabled people in the work place. So You Wanna Be in TV? also talked about their work helping young people getting into TV. Follow them on twitter @sywbitv. And DWord2’s organiser is the diversity trailblazer @Leon_Mann.
- Continuing on the media theme, big congratulations to the talented Shannon Murray who stars as Jackie, a recurring character in the new Doctor Who spin-off show ‘Class’ on BBC Three. You can find it on the BBC iPlayer – here’s the link to Episode 1, For Tonight We Might Die: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p048h1s0. And it’s BBC Three, so not for younger viewers…
- And finally, we all get dragged into the semantics around disability and it can be rather tedious and time consuming. Some people are shifting to ‘people with disabilities’ as it’s now used by the UN and other global organisations. Call me old fashioned, but I still prefer the original social model descriptor – I have an impairment, but it’s the way that society is structured and organised that disables me, so therefore I am a disabled person. Anyway, person with disabilities, disabled person, dibbly-pop or whatever, the excellent and eloquent Lawrence Carter-Long was interviewed by the American network NPR and makes the case rather well: http://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2016/02/25/468073722/disabled-just-saytheword