We aren’t doing enough to create access for those with a disability

The problems I see in London go on around the world, and are often worse

Mary Shaniqua avatar

by Mary Shaniqua |

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When you hear the word “accessibility,” what thought springs to mind?

For me, accessibility is about making adjustments so people with individualized needs can experience a building, activity, document, or other part of life just as anyone else can. But as a disability rights advocate and a disabled person myself, I believe accessibility is too often an afterthought, if it’s thought about at all.

I remember when I’d just started a new job and, as part of my onboarding, I attended an in-person corporate induction day. Participants were grouped in tables of six to eight, and two speakers were featured. The room had two screens at either end. All presentations that used slides or handouts were projected on the screen at the front of the room; the other screen wasn’t used at all. And neither of the speakers had microphones.

While I was able to follow the session, I was enraged that colleagues with vision or hearing impairments weren’t able to do that. As with most organizations, equity, diversity, and inclusion (known as EDI here in England, or DEI in the U.S.) seemed to be a priority, but this particular gathering was anything but inclusive.

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Searching out accessibility

I’m currently planning my wedding, and I’ve recently visited a host of venues for our special day. Living with both sickle cell disease and avascular necrosis, however, I have temperamental mobility. And the nature of these illnesses means there’s no way for me to dictate which days I’ll have problems with it. I could be in pain on my wedding day, either from a sickle cell crisis or the chronic variety.

Therefore, we had to choose an accessible venue. I didn’t expect that finding one would be such an issue. We experienced countless sites with lots of stairs, but no elevators. Some were set over large plots of land with no easier way to get around (with buggies or golf carts, for instance) than lots of walking. The experience was infuriating, but we eventually found a venue that met all of our needs.

But that’s not the only problem with accessibility here in London, which is sometimes hailed for having one of the world’s best transport networks. But did you know that far less than half of the subway network is fully accessible to those with special mobility needs? I recently saw a TikTok video of a disabled person subjected to moving up a flight of stairs on her bottom because the subway stop lacked the right accessibility measures. In the video, you can hear people laughing at her.

To say that left my blood boiling would be an understatement. To think: Disabled people face this experience in one of the world’s supposedly most developed nations. I shudder to imagine what life is like for people with additional needs in developing regions. Many a time I’ve taken a look at the pavements in places such as Nigeria or Jamaica and wondered how people with wheelchairs or other mobility aids get around — if at all!

To me, most folks don’t seem to understand that without accessibility, you’re allowing an environment that says “no entry” to the disabled community. Perhaps people don’t realize how badly that affects our community’s ability to participate in daily life. At least I hope that’s the case rather than deliberate, targeted exclusion.

Imagine working in an institution where all communications were in a language you couldn’t understand. Or living in a community where all services and social activities were open only to humans with wings to fly. Imagine experiencing that day in, day out across every aspect of daily living. Would it be a pleasant experience?

But that’s what an estimated 1.3 billion people worldwide are subjected to.

Imagine knowing that a little bit of extra effort or money could make things intelligible and obtainable for you — but those in charge simply refuse to offer it because accessibility hasn’t been a problem for them. How ridiculous does that sound?

It’s not an exaggeration to say that accessibility is transformative. If we prioritized that truth collectively, it’d give a large swath of the disabled community equal access to the world, for the enrichment of us all.

I encourage you to think today about what you can do differently to make the world around you more inclusive and accessible to all people, whatever their abilities.

Note: Sickle Cell Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sickle Cell Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sickle cell disease.


Wumi avatar


Just glad to hear you're getting married. Happy married life to you and your loved one

Natalie avatar


So so happy that you will be getting married. Wishing you God’s peace, strength and health. All will be well, don’t stress it out. God bless.


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