Disability News

Graphic of rating system
Image captionIf introduced, the rating system would show if premises have hearing loops, Braille menus and wheelchair friendly toilets

A "scores on the doors" system should be introduced to rate disabled access for surgeries, shops and restaurants, campaigners have said.

About 2,000 people have signed a petition calling for premises to be rated 0-5, in a similar scheme to the food hygiene rating.

Simon Green, who uses a wheelchair, said friends had to carry him into a restaurant as there was no ramp.

The Welsh Government said the principal of the idea had "some merit".

Members of the Bridgend Coalition of Disabled People, who started the petition, said it was often hard to tell if premises had facilities, such as accessible toilets, hearing loops or Braille menus.

They said while many claimed to be accessible, toilets were often too small to fit a standard NHS wheelchair in to.

Hearing loops are also often switched off and staff did not have the time or knowledge to install ramps, the group added.

Mr Green has neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder which causes tumours to form on nerve tissue. He has used a wheelchair for about 15 years.

The 42-year-old said, despite checking ahead, friends had been forced to carry him into a restaurant for a Christmas party after staff failed to put up the temporary ramp.

"I was sat outside for seven or eight minutes in what was a very cold December," he said.

"A friend of mine went in and spoke to numerous people at the bar. Eventually some friends just physically picked me up and carried me in. It's not very dignified, I hate being lifted," he said, adding the manager later apologised.

"It really angers me, because you're the centre of attention, I'm sat outside, I'm trying to get in," he added.

"Sometimes you are treated like a bit of a nuisance because you are saying to the bar staff 'can you get the ramp?' and they are serving customers. They say 'we'll be there in a minute', but that minute turns into six, seven, eight minutes, and I'm outside freezing."

About one fifth of the working-age population is classified as having a disability, according to official estimates.

Sally Clark, from Porthcawl, is deaf and wears a hearing implant. She has a hearing assistant dog called Simba and relies on lip reading to understand what people are saying.

But the 60-year-old said despite GP surgeries, banks and supermarkets advertising they have hearing loop systems - which cut out background noise - they are often switched off and staff do not know how to turn them on.

"I went to go and see John Bishop a couple of years ago and the hearing loop wasn't working. As it was a comedian, obviously there was no chance of me hearing any of it," she said, adding the venue had given her free tickets in return, but her evening had been ruined.

Ms Clark said she was often embarrassed by the long queue forming as staff tried to get the loop system working.

The group hope that the petition - which will be discussed by an assembly committee - will help drive up standards across Wales and make more places accessible for disabled people.

And while they do not expect small businesses to have to pay hefty bills to make adaptations or for listed buildings to have steps demolished, the campaigners say all premises can make small adaptations to make a difference to people's lives.

The Welsh Government made the food hygiene rating system mandatory in 2013.

A spokesman for the Welsh Government said he was not surprised the petition had gained a lot of support.

"In principle, this idea seems to have some merit and we would be interested to see how the practicalities of such a scheme would work," he said.

From BBC