What is an Access Group
Most members of access groups are disabled people who have experienced varying degrees of discrimination and difficulty in the community due to their disability and have realised that nobody else will be accountable for fixing the problem, and that includes the only legislation, the Equality Act. As with many forms of activism, there is strength in numbers, and that brings people together to try to improve facilities and behavior of people and services in the community.
Such Access groups are almost always small charitable or similar groups, either funded through traditional means, such are grants. donations or even by virtue of members paying their own way to get the materials required to undertake the activities.
Other groups still remain part of local councils, embedded as small consultation/feedback groups. which are officially classed as such to justify Council funding, and as with all groups provide feedback, comments and challenges to Council activities and other things occurring in their community.
HADAG started out as the latter kind of group until the current period of austerity started, and our local authority was incredibly quick to off-load quite a large number of groups similar to ours with the perception that the Localism Bill of 2012 required them to do so, although it could actually be understood that the aim of the bill called for exactly the opposite, from a certain point of view.
That being said, now that we are a fully independent group, beholden to no-one, and not in a position of risking the old-fashioned action of “biting the hand that feeds it” we can say it as we see it, and we don’t have to withhold comments as to the actions of our local authorities in the event that we see them maybe pushing the boundaries of what we perceive as bad practice.
However, as a grouip we are currently very small, but are a registered charity, and we do our best to carry out what we can of the following activities. This list is quite extensive and to be fair, it is more of a wish list for a ‘perfect group’:
- Regular Meetings
- Attending meetings with
- Local authorities, including adult and childrens services, transport, planning, roads/highways
- Transport providers
- Shops and other service providers from cinemas to theatres, supermarkets to sweet shops
Not all groups are access groups by name, or even mission. Larger towns or cities will form disability forums or other groups which under take the access role as part of a larger mission. Smaller groups, if they are sensible and are fortunate to plan their formation from scratch with experience, as did we, will know to restrict their mission as it is generally considered better to be experienced in knowledgeable in a small range of topics, rather than failing to achieve much in a very wide range of areas.
So Why are so few people willing to get involved?
It is traditional in most countries, and especially the UK, to expect ‘them’ or ‘they’ or the ‘powers that be’ or simply ‘somebody else’ to take action or report something that is a problem, perhaps a faulty street light, a pot-hole, an un-safe area of pavement or even bad practice on the part of their local authority. Many of us, myself included, are often aware of something, and even it it makes us uncomfortable, will come to the conclusion that somebody else will handle the problem or report the issue. After all, we cannot be the only person who has noticed it, or indeed the only person who has seen the problem and realised that what we’ve seen is wrong or illegal in the first place.
THEM, THEY or THOSE people, like the mythical Men in Black (MIBs) don’t exist. Once this fact is understood, then the only solution is that if WE or you/I want to see such problems resolved, then it is for us to stand up and be heard. When it comes to disability matters, for which problems are not always visible to the average (non-disabled) person, it is even more difficult, thus bringing the problem to an Access Group or local disability group is most definitely the way forward.
This is even more important as many large organisations have institutional practices built into their working practices which automatically seek to demean or reduce the opinion or community ‘value’ of a disable person to the extent that they will ignore any complaints made are ignored, because, unwittingly, disabled people are less intelligent, incapable of holding opinions, and surely cannot have the skills, experience or knowledge to call-out something which is wrong. Don’t believe me? Try visiting your local A&E department in a wheelchair and see the treatment you receive with an identical condition to someone who is ‘able bodied’.
So the question is, WHY ARE YOU NOT INVOLVED? If you are the kind of person, not unlike myself who sees something on tv or in the paper and says “they should have done something”, you need to ask who THEY are, and in this case, THEY is YOU.
As disabled people, or family members of disabled people, we frequently suffer discrimination, whether deliberate or otherwise, direct or indirect, or even experience such discrimination simply because we are related to, or associated with, a disabled person. Check out a separate page on the types of discrimination.
But just remember, there is power in numbers. you need not act alone.